After three seasons coaching the Olentangy Orange High School boys cross country program, Stephanie Toler has decided to step down.
"I made the decision with a heavy heart to not come back and coach here at the varsity level," she said. "I have a young daughter who is starting to become more active and involved in lots of activities.
"I do, however, love coaching, so I'm heading back to the middle school level where I can still make that impact with students, but with less time compared to the varsity level."
Orange did not have a Division I state qualifier this season, but the Pioneers had two individuals compete at regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North in seniors Eric Aumiller (44th, 17 minutes, 8.3 seconds) and Sam Gerst (47th, 17:09.62). The top 16 individuals advanced to state Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
"The (six) seniors meant a great deal to our program," Toler said. "Most of them have been in the system with each other and me as their coach since seventh grade.
"They have led our team not only in performances, but with their leadership, hard work, teamwork and determination. Two of the seniors qualified for regional, which was the most qualifiers in (program) history. They will be greatly missed."
The Pioneers finished eighth (188) of 12 teams in the district 2 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional. Hilliard Davidson (39) won and Hilliard Darby (136) was the final team qualifier.
Gerst (16th, 17:13.46) and Aumiller (18th, 17:19.11) led Orange, followed by junior Tyler Young (30th, 17:54.1), sophomore Kyle Benecke (58th, 18:35.86), junior Cameron Flesch (66th, 18:50.32), senior Dustin Dieker (67th, 18:50.94) and freshman Carl Fischer (68th, 19:01.65).
"(The runners expected to return) are a strong, determined, hard-working corps of gents whom with lots of miles next summer and the experiences they gained this season are sure to make 2013 a season to remember," Toler said.
In the OCC-Capital Division meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster, the Pioneers finished third (91) behind New Albany (32) and Olentangy (56) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (115), Delaware (144), Mount Vernon (145) and Big Walnut (151).
Gerst (sixth, 16:22) was first-team all-league and Aumiller (ninth, 16:58.1) was second-team all-league.
Olentangy boys reached regional
The Olentangy boys team finished 10th (258) of 16 teams in the Division I regional won by Westerville North (79). New Albany (114) earned the fourth and final state-qualifying berth.
Sophomore Tyler Grover (21st, 16:31.98) led the Braves, followed by junior Chase Benson (29th, 16:46.78), senior Corey Standerwick (70th, 17:30.46), senior Ryan Thede (83rd, 17:38.63), sophomore Jacob Darche (90th, 17:44.23), sophomore Tyler Azbell (92nd, 17:45.8) and sophomore Charles Rodeheffer (96th, 17:47.9).
"Our (13) seniors gave great leadership this season," said coach Mike Moran, who completed his fifth season. "Right from camp in June, throughout the summer and to the regional meet in October, they were very organized, motivated and displayed a tremendous work ethic."
In the district 1 meet won by Westerville North (45), Olentangy placed third (97) of 13 teams as the top five advanced to regional.
Grover (fourth, 17:01.13) led the Braves, followed by Benson (seventh, 17:09.64), Standerwick (20th, 17:41.81), Thede (28th, 17:58.14), Darche (38th, 18:14.36), Azbell (46th, 18:28.27) and Rodeheffer (53rd, 18:42.72).
"We have a solid group (expected to return) that loves to run," Moran said. "Our top two runners, Chase Benson and Tyler Grover, both of whom were all-OCC and all-district, will give us strong front-runners."
In the OCC-Capital meet, Grover (fourth, 16:35.5) and Benson (fifth, 16:38.7) earned first-team all-league honors. Making honorable mention all-league were Standerwick (14th, 17:25.4), Rodeheffer (18th, 17:42.4) and Thede (19th, 17:45.4).
"I think that Olentangy cross country finally is back to a respectable level after undergoing the split (with Orange)," Moran said. "We not only have good numbers in the program, we also have many quality runners returning."
Olentangy girls losing seven seniors
The Olentangy girls team did not have any runners in the Division I state or regional meets.
"Our seniors provided a lot of leadership," said coach Dwight Dewese, who completed his 10th season. "Of the seven seniors, four -- Emily Watson, Amy Harmon, Elaina Gollmar and Maddy Johnson -- had been involved with the program for four years. That kind of experience is going to be a challenge to replace."
Harmon and Watson were captains with senior Angela Guidarelli, a three-year letterwinner. Seniors Aubrey Gore and Blair Bishop were two-year letterwinners.
In the district 3 meet, the Braves finished ninth (203) of 10 teams as the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional. Upper Arlington (49) won and Orange (176) was the final team qualifier.
Freshman Kendall Supinger (33rd, 21:18.67) led Olentangy, followed by freshman Sarah Speck (40th, 21:36.29), sophomore Sara Pocius (42nd, 21:52.58), Guidarelli (46th, 21:57.78), junior Mackenzie Freeman (47th, 21:58.46), sophomore Claire Hardesty (53rd, 22:14.99) and freshman Emma Cook (56th, 22:25.43).
"We had a lot of depth this season," Dewese said. "We performed very well in quite a few open races and we had a lot of kids that were under 22 minutes.
"Now, the returning runners need to make a commitment to putting in the miles during the offseason so that they can take that next step and get down to 20 minutes or even lower. We have quite a few runners that potentially could show that much improvement."
In the OCC-Capital meet, the Braves finished third (82) behind New Albany (33) and Orange (65) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (84), Big Walnut (127), Delaware (140) and Mount Vernon (155).
Supinger (eighth, 20:50.4) and Pocius (13th, 21:15.4) were second-team all-league. Speck (18th, 21:31.1) and Cook (21st, 21:37) were honorable mention.
"I am excited about the future of the program," Dewese said. "Both of our middle school feeders, Shanahan and Berkshire, had really good numbers and that would lead us to believe that we will continue to grow."