Olentangy Valley News

Boys Cross Country

Liberty out to maintain high level of success

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Despite losing five of its top runners to graduation, the Olentangy Liberty High School boys cross country team has high expectations for this season.

The Patriots return only two of the seven runners who competed in the Division I state meet last fall. Liberty finished 12th (265 points) at state behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (46).

Those back are junior Mitchell Towne (115th at state, 17 minutes, 11.28 seconds) and senior Cameron Lackey (127th, 17:31.11). Lost to graduation were Andrew Johnston (10th, 15:46.87), Josh Wojciechowski (60th, 16:32.64), Chatham Anderson (86th, 16:43.09), Brad Wiemels (137th, 17:41.85) and Daniel Parsons (140th, 17:47.2).

"We have the experience of being at three consecutive state championship meets, so we know what it takes to compete at a high level," said coach Jared Mills, who is in his eighth season. "Our team also knows the work required to maintain a high level of performance."

Senior Christian Myklebust also ran varsity last season. Mills said the program has a strong freshman class that includes Logan Boone, Brad Raymond, Nolan Vondracek and Nathan Warrick.

Other key performers include seniors Luke Borling, Michael Kivett, Vincent LaCava and Kian Worcester, juniors Austin Anderson, Nick Mockler, Jack Neff, John Ropchock, Will Sengos and Luke Wojciechowski and sophomores Jonathan Cottrill, Andrew Eppley, Ryan Milligan and Gabe Sundberg.

"We logged 19,296 miles as a program this summer and we have 90 runners out," Mills said. "We currently have too much of a spread between our Nos. 2-5 runners. We have seen steady progress over the last few weeks to close that gap, and if we continue to see that improvement, we will be well prepared for a late-season run in late October."

The Patriots open Saturday, Aug. 30, in the Westerville Classic at Westerville North.

Last season, Liberty won a tiebreaker over Dublin Coffman to finish second (58) in the OCC-Central Division meet behind Hilliard Davidson (34).

Pioneers ready to make move

Orange has six runners back from the program's first appearance in the Division I regional meet, where the Pioneers finished 13th (311) behind champion Dublin Jerome (66).

The returnees are junior Brandon Morrow (29th at regional, 16:51.46), sophomore Brandon Lane (64th, 17:22.84), senior Kyle Benecke (72nd, 17:32.64), sophomore Hunter Moore (73rd, 17:32.7), sophomore Tommy Heiden (115th, 18:23.16) and sophomore Matt Hartzell (116th, 18:26.79).

"I think we have three runners in Brandon Morrow, Brandon Lane and Hunter Moore who can finish in the top 15 of most races," said second-year coach Adam Walters, whose program is in its seventh season. "Last year, we didn't have a true front-runner and we relied on the pack, but this year we're going to lean on those three. A lot of good seniors in central Ohio graduated last year and with the improvements those three have made in the past year, I think they are ready to compete at a higher level this fall."

Orange opened Aug. 23 by finishing third (111) in the 18-team Centerville Saturday Night Lights behind Centerville (92) and Hilliard Darby (105) and ahead of Toledo St. Francis (122).

Lane (third, 16:27.88) and Moore (fourth, 16:28.59) led the Pioneers behind Darby's Daniel Reynolds (16:20.99) and Centerville's Jimmy Barton (16:26.17). Morrow (16th, 17:09.46) was next for Orange, followed by Benecke (38th, 17:31.62), Hartzell (53rd, 17:48.58), Heiden (54th, 17:49.87) and freshman Jackson Schiefelbein (75th, 18:08.27).

Other key performers include senior Bryce Meade, juniors Carl Fischer, Michael Huang and Sam Kot, sophomore Josh Brooks and freshmen Cullen Dickson, Lake Harris and Tommy Wintering.

"The difference between us being a team that is a mid-level placer at regional and a team in the hunt to be a state qualifier depends on how well our fourth and fifth runners do. If they can close the gap on our top three guys, we will be a very dangerous team. The nice thing is we have healthy competition to be our fifth through 10th runners, so a lot of guys are fighting to be in that top seven."

Last season, the Pioneers were third (68) in the OCC-Capital meet behind New Albany (27) and Olentangy (48).

Braves have deep lineup

Olentangy returns all seven of its runners from the Division I regional, where the Braves finished seventh (198).

Senior Charles Rodeheffer was 35th at regional (16:56.3), followed by senior Jacob Darche (48th, 17:11.6), sophomore Anthony Sasso (58th, 17:17.18), senior Tyler Azbell (63rd, 17:22), senior Daylan Sutton (99th, 17:57.54) and sophomore Alex Garner (119th, 18:42.07).

"We have several veterans back, giving us a lot of experience and terrific senior leadership," said coach Mike Moran, who is in his seventh season. "We have a large and talented sophomore class and we're a solid group with depth."

The Braves opened Aug. 23 by placing third (58) in the seven-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational behind Massillon Jackson (38) and Wooster (57) and ahead of Gahanna (80).

Sasso was fourth (16:45.5), followed by Darche (eighth, 16:55), Rodeheffer (ninth, 16:59.4), Garner (17th, 17:20.7), Azbell (21st, 17:38.2), Sutton (26th, 17:51.1) and sophomore Zach Balthaser (34th, 18:15).

Other key runners include seniors Kyle Deistler, Zach Profio and Sam Watson, junior Drew Fleischer, sophomores Kyle Brookshire, Grant Maddox, Tyler Reed and Andy Saunders and freshmen Bentley Azbell, Jake Richards and Cullen Sainey.

"We don't really have a front-runner to break out of our pack," Moran said. "But this is a hard-working group and the kids are hungry to meet their team goals."

SCHEDULES

LIBERTY

Aug. 30 -- Westerville Classic at Westerville North

Sept. 6 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 13 -- Galion Cross Country Festival at Amman's Reservoir Park

Sept. 20 -- Strongsville Invitational

Sept. 27 -- Pickerington North Panther Invitational

Oct. 4 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Central meet at Hilliard Darby

OLENTANGY

Aug. 23 -- Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational at Foundation Park

Aug. 30 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 6 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 13 -- Galion Cross Country Festival at Amman's Reservoir Park

Sept. 27 -- Erin Nance Distance Classic at London Country Club

Oct. 4 -- Hilliard Darby Dash

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Capital meet at Newark

ORANGE

Aug. 23 -- Centerville Saturday Night Lights

Aug. 30 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 6 -- Tiffin Cross Country Carnival

Sept. 13 -- Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park

Sept. 20 -- Lancaster Bob Reall Invitational

Sept. 27 -- Pickerington North Panther Invitational

Oct. 4 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Capital meet at Newark

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