The Division I regional cross country meet has been held at Pickerington High School North every year since 2004, so most of the area's top competitors had experience on the course before running in this year's event Oct. 26.

The Division I regional cross country meet has been held at Pickerington High School North every year since 2004, so most of the area's top competitors had experience on the course before running in this year's event Oct. 26.

Still, there's something to be said for knowing the course better than the competition.

North junior Zach Zimmerman believes that helped him finish among the top 16 individuals to earn a state berth.

"I was so nervous going into the race," he said. "Home course advantage (helped). I know where the wind would hit us, so I just kind of got between six and 10 and waited for the end."

Zimmerman, who was one of just two non-seniors to finish among the top nine, placed seventh in 16 minutes, 7.35 seconds to move on to compete in the Division I boys state race at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.

Olentangy Liberty senior Andrew Johnston won the regional title in 15:40.8 and was one of four runners to finish in faster than 16 minutes.

"I told (Zimmerman) with as cold as it was to tuck in (with the lead pack)," coach Tim Starkey said. "Immediately he found his spot and tucked in. There's no doubt he's in the best shape that he's been in."

Zimmerman helped North finish 12th (283) in the 16-team regional behind champion Dublin Jerome (66) as the top four teams advanced.

Junior Ryan Kronk was the Panthers' No. 2 runner, finishing 40th in 17:03.24, followed by seniors Nick Haghiri (81st, 17:38.63) and Brian Lanier (90th, 17:48.64), junior Mitchell Curnutte (98th, 17:57.04), sophomore Kyle Howell (114th, 18:19.91) and freshman Ryan Francis (122nd, 19:46.88).

"As a team I thought we showed a lot of heart," Starkey said. "Ryan Francis ran on a strained calf. Nick Haghiri and Brian Lanier stayed at the top of their limits and Ryan Kronk ran a courageous race."

The last time the North boys were represented at state was 2009, when they finished fifth as a team.

"This is my first year (advancing to state) so I'm definitely very excited," Zimmerman said.

Season ends forCentral girls

The Central girls team's season ended in the Division I regional for the third consecutive year.

The Tigers scored 267 points to place 12th of 16 teams behind champion Gahanna (90) as the top four advanced to state.

The closest to advancing individually by placing in the top 16 were senior Stephanie Gase, who was 24th in 19:56.11, and classmate Elizabeth Weed, who was 36th in 20:10.68.

"There were a handful of girls competing for the (last few) spots and they kind of went out and rolled the dice a little," coach Hunter Nichols said. "(Weed has) been getting out in the first 800 under control and worked her way up with the main pack by the mile. Those girls (who advanced) came out blazing and there were too many for her to come back from. ... (Gase) gave herself a shot."

Weed was 21st at regional as a sophomore and 30th at regional last season. Gase took 49th at regional a year ago.

Senior Morgan Richardson, who placed 67th (20:51.09) on Oct. 26, was a regional qualifier as an individual as a freshman and competed for the Tigers last season, along with Gase and Weed, when they placed 13th at regional.

Also competing for the Tigers in this year's regional were freshman Elizabeth Fee (84th, 21:18.84), junior Madison Cheyunski (93rd, 21:36.71) and sophomores Rachael Sentivany (96th, 21:44.75) and Madison Scrape (102nd, 21:56.47).

"It's to the point now where someone is going to be at state for Pickerington Central, and I told them, 'You helped the team get to that point,' " Nichols said.