Several freshmen have been among the key contributors for the Pickerington High School North girls cross country team throughout the first half of the season.
While sophomore Kat Lowe has settled into the role of No. 1 runner, freshmen Jessica Griffin, Abby Grube, Hannah Rickman, Allysin Marsico, Anna McSurly, Sierra Waite and Julia Westall all have run faster than 23 minutes.
Seniors Jordan Potts and Kelsey Waite also have been key runners, and junior Rosa Rumora should help provide depth over the coming weeks.
"The team has a good blend of senior and junior veterans to go along with our talented and enthusiastic freshmen," coach Jim Langenderfer said. "(We want to) get our times lower, closer to 20 minutes. We have five to seven girls who have that potential in them, and we work at it at every practice and meet. We're due for a breakout race soon."
On Sept. 7 in the 28-team Mason Invitational, Lowe was 85th (21 minutes, .57 of a second) as the Panthers placed 21st (588) behind champion Carmel, Ind. (50).
"The team is fast, but we're working on developing strength so that we can stay closer to the front of the race to have a chance to use our speed at the finish," Langenderfer said. "Strength comes with time and practice, just working on it each week."
Young runners also leading Central boys
After becoming his team's No. 1 runner last season, sophomore Steven Bauers again has been among the top competitors for the Central boys.
On Sept. 7 in the Division I race of the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial, freshman Jack Jaynes was the Tigers' best finisher (22nd, 16:58.87), while Bauers was 29th (17:13.3).
Other key runners have been seniors Alex Forshey and Terry Peppers, juniors Jonathan Fee, Myles Harton and Richie Siebert and sophomore Hunter Denton.
"I feel that the season has gone fairly well so far," coach Andy Fischer said. "There are five guys that have run 17:43 or better and there are a few others close to breaking 18 minutes. The competition on the team has been very good from one through 28. I would like to see all of the team continue to improve their times and to close any time gaps between teammates."
The Tigers placed seventh (275) of 28 teams in the McGowan Invitational behind champion Olentangy Liberty (51), a finish that pleased Fischer.
"(Jaynes) has been a minor surprise in that he has adjusted to the (3.1-mile) race from the junior high two miles so well," Fischer said.
Central girls team happy with progress
Things have been going according to plan for the Central girls team.
Seniors Stephanie Gase, Morgan Richardson and Elizabeth Weed and junior Madison Cheyunski all have run faster than 21 minutes.
Other key contributors have been sophomores Madison Scrape and Rachel Sentivany and freshman Elizabeth Fee.
"Each race we've run so far our varsity order has changed, which shows me we are getting faster as a team and we are no longer content with being third, fourth, fifth, or whatever place on the team," coach Hunter Nichols said. "They all want to be the best. The surprise has come from our back end.
"I've been very pleased with our racing so far. The girls have been living up to my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with. ... Moving on in the season, I just want to see the progress continue. If that happens, we'll be in a good place come October."
Zimmerman leading North boys team
Junior Zach Zimmerman won his first two races for the North boys team.
On Aug. 24 in the Panther Race of the Pickerington Classic at home, Zimmerman ran 16:20.6 to edge Thornville Sheridan's Matt Bromley (16:26.2) for the title.
On Aug. 31 in the Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion, Zimmerman finished first in 16:41.4 as North was second (82) of 21 teams behind Olentangy (76).
Other top runners for the Panthers have been seniors Nick Haghiri and Brian Lanier, juniors Mitchell Curnutte, Ryan Kronk and Farquan Waes, sophomore Kyle Howell and freshmen Ryan Francis and Alex Radanof.
"The season has had a few positives and the team is coming together," coach Tim Starkey said. "We have had solid performances by individuals. Now it is time to come together."