The Pickerington High School North boys cross country team won't have to look far for motivation during the offseason.

The Pickerington High School North boys cross country team won't have to look far for motivation during the offseason.

With six runners back who competed a year ago when they won their first regional title, the Panthers had high expectations. On Sept. 27 when North won its nine-team Panther Invitational in dominating fashion with 38 points, there was no reason to think it couldn't at least come close to duplicating last year's postseason finishes.

A runner-up finish (54) in the OCC-Ohio Division meet behind Reynoldsburg (35) on Oct. 11, however, was the beginning of a rough postseason.

North was second (68) to Hilliard Darby (31) in the district 1 meet Oct. 18 at Watkins Memorial and then slipped to eighth (198) at the home regional last Saturday behind champion Hilliard Davidson (76) as the top four teams and 16 individuals advanced to state.

"We need everybody to compete to have a complete team," said junior Nick Hissrich, who was 26th (16 minutes, 49.87) in the regional. "There are four of us that will be seniors next year. We have to take this as a way to fuel ourselves for next year."

Hissrich was North's No. 2 runner at regional behind classmate Greg Black (23rd, 16:48.58). Junior Daniel Garleb, who was the team's No. 1 runner for most of the regular season, was 51st (17:11.29), followed by sophomores John Parsons (67th, 17:26.07) and Justin Simmons (72nd, 17:31.11) and junior Mitchell Phillips (91st, 17:47.64). The only senior among the top seven was Jeremy Lascola, who was 108th (18:04.18).

In the OCC-Ohio meet, Black was seventh (16:31.09).

"At this level you either compete or you don't," coach Tim Starkey said. "It's really all psychological and we just kind of psyched ourselves out. I honestly think it's been a psychological thing with Daniel because in his workouts he's been really relaxed.

"Even if Daniel had been where he had been a few weeks ago, we still had a couple other key runners who weren't where they were supposed to be. It was a team loss."

In the 16-team girls regional last Saturday, North finished last (428) behind champion Cincinnati Oak Hills (61).

Of the Panthers' top seven runners last Saturday, only two were seniors.

Freshman Gabbi Thacker was 89th (21:33.25), followed by senior Emily Fetterman (91st, 21:36.23), sophomore Kim Black (103rd, 21:50.25), freshman Gabbi Bobadilla (108th, 22:07.09), sophomore Morgan Grodesky (112th, 22:23.85), junior Kayla Byler (113th, 22:25.23) and senior Amy Williamson (114th, 22:32.23).

North was first (74) in the OCC-Ohio meet ahead of runner-up Pickerington Central (77). Thacker was third (19:58.5).

Junior Caitlin Hughes, who competed in several meets, is another eligible returnee.

In the district 1 meet, North was fourth (130) to earn the final qualifying berth behind champion Thomas Worthington (48).

"(The regional) was a very fast race, and it just takes experience at that level," coach Jim Langenderfer said. "This is the most competitive group I think I've ever coached. We're going to give it a better run in the future."

•Sophomore Kaitlyn Meyer represented the Central girls team in the regional and was 27th (20:12.83). Cincinnati Glen Este's Michelle Thomas was first (17:59.89).

The Tigers finished fifth (131), one spot and one point behind North, in the district 3 meet as the top four moved on to regional. It was the second consecutive week that Central fell just short of North, as the Tigers were three points behind the champion Panthers in the OCC-Ohio meet.

Meyer was fourth (19:18.06) at district, followed by freshman Santele Smith (22nd, 20:40.04), sophomores Jessica Bussom (28th, 20:46.69) and Jordan Robinson (37th, 21:04.34), freshman Autumn Cooper (42nd, 21:14.6), junior Megan Sharrett (43rd, 21:22.83) and freshman Emily Sharrett (69th, 23:37.07). Emily Sharrett battled sickness during the final weeks of the season after becoming one of Central's top three runners.

Meyer was second (19:35.69) behind Gahanna's Kay Kay Garber (19:13.69) in the OCC meet.

The Central boys team was 10th (214) in the 14-team district 1 meet. Senior Keshav Swaminathan was 18th (16:51.83), followed by senior Joe Taranto (30th, 17:07.25), who battled sickness over the final two weeks after finishing 17th (16:34) at regional a year ago.

Senior Jeff Williams (46th, 17:34.77), freshmen Mason Prater (56th, 17:53) and Michael Gase (64th, 18:02.25), junior Usama Awan (67th, 18:16.48) and freshman Brennan McColter (76th, 18:32.82) followed at district.

The Tigers finished fourth (95) in the OCC meet as Taranto was sixth (16:21.75).

"If we'd have run the way we had been for the (previous) few weeks, we'd have been right there (at district) in fourth or fifth," coach Andy Fischer said. "Whatever (Taranto) battled all season, it reared its ugly head (at district). But we have a good amount of guys coming back. It always depends on what you do in the offseason."

At a glance

CENTRAL

•Finishes: Boys -- Fourth (95) in OCC-Ohio, 10th in district; Girls -- Second in OCC-Ohio, fifth in district

•Seniors lost: Boys -- Cody Colburn, Keshav Swaminathan, Joe Taranto and Jeff Williams; Girls -- Liz Dyer, Liz Hardin, Katie Rausch and Bethany Steele

•Key returnees: Boys -- Usama Awan, Michael Gase, Jimmy Jarrell, Brennan McColter and Mason Prater; Girls -- Jessica Bussom, Autumn Cooper, Kaitlyn Meyer, Jordan Robinson, Emily Sharrett, Megan Sharrett and Santele Smith

NORTH

•Finishes: Boys -- Second in OCC-Ohio, second in district, eighth in regional; Girls -- First in OCC-Ohio, fourth in district, 16th in regional

•Seniors lost: Boys -- Jeremy Lascola; Girls -- Emily Fetterman, Amanda Harr, Tereza Kovarikova, Mary Lee, Sammi Stoklosa and Amy Williamson

•Key returnees: Boys -- Greg Black, Daniel Garleb, Nick Hissrich, John Parsons, Mitchell Phillips and Justin Simmons, Girls -- Kim Black, Gabbi Bobadilla, Kayla Byler, Morgan Grodesky and Gabbi Thacker