The Olentangy High School girls cross country team improved its performance from a year ago at the Division I regional last Saturday at Pickerington North, but still came up short of advancing to the state meet.

The Olentangy High School girls cross country team improved its performance from a year ago at the Division I regional last Saturday at Pickerington North, but still came up short of advancing to the state meet.

The Braves finished eighth (253) behind champion Cincinnati Oak Hills (61) as the top four teams advanced to state Saturday at Scioto Downs. Last year they were 11th.

The top 16 individuals also advanced, but Olentangy's top finisher was Tara Walker, who finished 35th in 20 minutes, 20.2 seconds.

"She was a little disappointed with her time," coach Dwight DeWese said. "I think she was hoping for better, but sometimes you get caught up in the pack and it's tough to get out."

Walker was followed by Heather Moore (47th, 20:28.79), Chrissy Steinhaus (68th, 21:04.80), Candace Dove (78th, 21:15.99), Mackenzie Dove (79th, 21:22.11), Elizabeth Potter (95th, 21:42.12) and Olivia Karner (106th, 22:03.0).

"They ran as hard as they could," DeWese said. "When you get to this level, the race changes drastically because everybody is running so fast. It's such a crowd and it's hard to fight through all the traffic. They worked really hard."

Earning eighth place, the Braves achieved their goal of finishing in the top half of the 16-team regional.

"I was hoping for an upper half finish and we managed to accomplish that," DeWese said.

Outside of the regional and the first two meets of the season, the Braves placed in the top two at every other competition.

"The girls really showed a lot of improvement from a year ago and that's what we preach, to get better," DeWese said. "There's a little bit of a rumor that we may slip down to Division II (next year) and that would be interesting to see what we could do with the top six back."

•The Liberty girls team finished 12th (300).

"The course seemed to run a little bit slow, but position-wise we ran pretty well," coach Larry Sweeney said. "This will be the meet that we pretty much wrap our season up with this year, and I think the girls, especially the seniors, can feel very satisfied about how they wrapped up their season and career."

Junior Kaitie Beetner led the Patriots in 37th (20:21.09). Other notables were junior Erica Hamon (64th, 20:59.46) and senior Steffany Fisher (73rd, 21:11.03).

Also contributing were Katie Stanfill (86th, 21:30.58), Emily Yax (100th, 21:46.08), Lydia Whittington (110th, 22:18.98) and Chelsea Denlinger (115th, 22:36.57).

The Patriots were plagued by injuries for most of the season and they kept the team from competing on a level with some of the top teams around the district.

"We had a lot of nagging injuries, and sometimes you get a year where everybody stays healthy and other times you get a little bit more banged up," Sweeney said. "There weren't very many races where we had everyone healthy and running to the level that I thought they could."

•The Liberty boys team was 13th (314) at the regional behind champion Hilliard Davidson (76).

Junior Tyler Ross was 32nd (16:53.26). Additional contributors were Adam Cellar (79th, 17:38.2), Josh Frash (81st, 17:38.54), David Waybill (89th, 17:46.03), Clay Gilkerson (101st, 17:59.15), Luke Miller (110th, 18:07.17) and Andrew Hemmer (121st, 18:37.96).

"(Ross) was in the mix about halfway through the race, which is where he needed to be, but in the backstretch he lost about eight spots," coach Jared Mills said. "As a team, we got out way too slow and we talked about not getting sucked into all of the excitement, but then we had too much ground to make up."

Ross can't wait to begin competition next season and he already has some goals in mind.

"Individually, I'd love to break the top 16 and go to state," he said. "Teamwise we want to go to state and be somewhere in the top 12."

Mills said the team has a lot to learn from the regional competition and believes it will be a better team as a result next season. Liberty returns five of their top seven runners, including Ross.

"We have five guys returning and this experience was very valuable," Mills said.

•Danny Meyung of Orange exceeded expectations when he qualified for the Division II regional as a freshman.

Last Saturday, Meyung placed 69th in 18:28.34 and gained valuable experience to take into next season.