Despite having three freshmen among its top seven runners for most of last season, the Pickerington High School North girls cross country team captured the OCC-Ohio Division championship and made it to the Division I regional.

Despite having three freshmen among its top seven runners for most of last season, the Pickerington High School North girls cross country team captured the OCC-Ohio Division championship and made it to the Division I regional.

The additions of two more freshmen to the top of the lineup has the Panthers on pace for another memorable postseason.

Freshman Kristen Eisenhauer has been North's No. 1 runner all season, including last Saturday when she earned a runner-up finish (20 minutes, 20.22 seconds) in the Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central.

Classmate Fayth Greegor has stepped in as the No. 2 runner.

"It's really a nice blend of talent from all of the grades," coach Jim Langenderfer said. "Our seniors are just fantastic leaders. The season is going well but we've got to keep improving because we want to have a great finish.

"Kristen had a great junior high career, so we anticipated that she'd have a good high school career. She's very competitive and likes to go after the front-runners. Her friend Fayth Greegor is also very strong. They were a great one-two punch in junior high."

Eisenhauer holds Pickerington's junior high records in the 800 meters (2:28), the 1,600 (5:23) and the 3,200 (11:58) and had run a couple of 5K races before this season.

"It's been a little surprising, but I feel comfortable with where I'm at," Eisenhauer said. "It's pretty cool having all of the support of my teammates. That's made it a little less overwhelming. I didn't really run much before junior high, but my mom was a runner in high school and got me started."

Sophomore Gabbi Thacker was the No. 1 runner for most of last season and has been among the top five this season, along with juniors Kim Black and Morgan Grodesky and sophomore Gabby Bobadilla.

Seniors Kayla Byler, Caitlin Hughes and Katie Klopp also have served as leaders, according to Langenderfer.

"I'm a little bit surprised by our results at the Tiger Invitational," said Langenderfer, whose team finished first in the event. "Training-wise, we've been pushing hard and I thought they'd be more tired than they are. They're all running with a lot of heart."

The top runners for the North boys team had last Saturday off, as the team won the Bengal Division race -- which features some varsity teams -- despite running its freshmen team.

While Daniel Garleb and Nick Hissrich have been the team's top runners, the Panthers also have received contributions from James Whitehead, John Parsons, Brian Green, Stephen Morrison, Austin Kilgore and Mitchell Phillips.

The contribution of Whitehead in particular has been a pleasant surprise after he missed last season with injuries.

"They all look good," coach Tim Starkey said. "We have a solid three guys up front, and my four through seven guys are coming up. Our sole focus is the postseason."

•The Central boys and girls teams will compete Saturday in the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic in London.

The boys team has 21 runners, with 17 being freshmen and sophomores. The only upperclassmen who consistently have been among the team's top 10 runners are seniors Usama Awan and Neal Shah.

Sophomores Michael Gase and Mason Prater usually have been the top two runners, with sophomore Brennan McCotter, Awan and freshman Luke Forshey also consistently among the top five. Others who have contributed have included Mitch Boothe, Mason Moore and Brian Trufant.

"With these guys being mostly a young group, we're looking to improve week to week and have them race above the sophomore level," coach Andy Fischer said.

"We want them to get into these big races and get that experience so they can have more confidence for future years."

The girls team has had its depth tested by the loss of sophomore Santele Smith, whose status for the rest of the season is in question because of an injury.

Junior Kaitlyn Meyer has been the Tigers' No. 1 runner, followed by junior Annie Curie, sophomore Emily Sharrett, junior Jessica Bussom, senior Megan Sharrett and sophomore Autumn Cooper. Other contributors have included junior Courtney Harry and sophomore Jennifer Whetstone.

"We're a little banged up right now, and with the way last week was going, I was happy with how we did (last Saturday)," said coach Melissa Balko, whose team finished third at its home meet last Saturday. "We need to start changing our focus from endurance to speed work and we need to get our spirits up. The weather last week just made the whole week rough."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Pickerington Central and North boys and girls cross country teams:

CENTRAL

Sept. 5 -- Boys: Finished sixth (165) in 17-team Lebanon Invitational behind champion Kettering Fairmont (56); Girls: Finished third (82) in 10-team field behind host Lebanon (54) and Cincinnati McNicholas (69)

Sept. 12 -- Boys: Finished 21st (541) in 29-team McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial behind champion Dublin Coffman (79)

Sept. 19 -- Boys: Finished eighth (191) in 11-team Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park behind champion Westerville Central (62); Girls: Finished 13th (341) in 28-team Galion Festival behind champion Toledo Mount Notre Dame Academy (75)

Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished eighth (214) in Tiger Race of 14-team home Tiger Invitational behind champion New Albany (67); Girls: Finished third (83) in Tiger Race of eight-team Tiger Invitational behind champion Pickerington North (73) and Northmor (80)

Saturday -Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club

NORTH

Sept. 5 -- Boys: Finished first (31) in 17-team Ashland Invitational; Girls: Finished first (50) in 18-team Bucyrus Elks Invitational

Sept. 12 -- Boys: Finished sixth (279) in 40-team Tiffin Carnival behind champion Cleveland St. Ignatius (128); Girls: Finished third in 12-team Wooster Invitational

Sept. 19 -- Boys: Finished second (102) in 25-team Alliance Invitational behind Sylvania Northview (91); Girls: Finished eighth (224) in 16-team field at Alliance behind champion Springboro (50)

Last Saturday -- Boys: Finished first (32) in 17-team Bengal Race of Tiger Invitational at Central ; Girls: Finished first (73) in eight-team Tiger Race of Tiger Invitational

Saturday -- Boys: Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Darby; Girls: Home Panther Invitational