Unable to field a complete squad for most of last season, the Westland High School girls cross country team has added depth this year.

Unable to field a complete squad for most of last season, the Westland High School girls cross country team has added depth this year.

That depth has led to some success, including a sixth-place finish in the Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone on Sept. 21.

The Cougars finished with 198 points in the 12-team field, behind first-place Bexley (40).

"I was definitely happy with that finish because there were a few teams that are a little more competitive that haven't run there in the past that showed up, so the caliber of the competition was definitely much stronger and we still came out with a good finish," coach Josh Barkeloo said. "The girls really came together and produced a result that was beyond my expectations."

Westland participated in the Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club on Oct. 1. It also will compete in the Ray Russell Invitational at Jonathan Alder Junior High School on Oct. 8.

Barkeloo expected Moni Neri to be the team's top runner, and the senior hasn't disappointed.

She was the team's top runner at Whetstone, finishing 24th in 22 minutes, 43 seconds.

"Moni is definitely one of the hardest-working kids I've ever coached, and it shows," Barkeloo said.

Three underclassmen have joined Neri in the top five, making Barkeloo optimistic about the future.

Freshman Heidi Paxson has been the second runner followed by sophomores Lindsay Vachon and Haylee Brown.

Senior Jessica Buckler is the fifth runner.

Paxson was 27th at Whetstone in a personal-best 23:02.

Junior Sean Tho has led the boys team. His top time was 21 minutes, 15 seconds in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 31.

"Sean is still coming along," Barkeloo said.

"He's about where I thought he'd be."

Senior Jake Jarrell, the team's second runner, was lost for the season after tearing ligaments in his right elbow. Barkeloo hopes Jarrell can return for the track and field season.

Senior Luke Young, sophomore Kurt Guffey and freshman Andrew Ritchie have been contending to replace Jarrell in the No. 2 spot. Young and Guffey are first-year runners.

"I've seen improvement out of all the boys," Barkeloo said. "Some of them have shaved minutes off of their personal records, which is fantastic."

The boys team's top finish this season was 15th (389) of 16 teams at Whetstone, behind first-place Bexley (60).

The teams will compete in the OCC-Central Division meet Oct. 15 at Westerville North.

Barkeloo hopes to use the league meet as a tune-up for the Division I district meet Oct. 22 at Watkins Memorial.

"We've really started to jell as a team," Barkeloo said. "We've seen a lot of improvement from our athletes."

•Football coach Steve White hopes his team can be more competitive as the second half of the season continues.

The Cougars played two of the top teams in the OCC-Central in their first two weeks of league play, losing to Hilliard Davidson 64-0 on Sept. 16 and Dublin Coffman 76-0 on Sept. 23.

Despite the lopsided losses, White said his players have remained upbeat.

"Kids bounce back," he said. "They're high school kids. They roll with the punches better than I do and some of the coaches because we're a little bit longer in the tooth than they are. They're bouncing back all right."

Westland plays at Thomas Worthington on Friday, Oct. 7. The Cougars were 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the league before playing Worthington Kilbourne on Sept. 30.

Thomas was 1-4 and 0-2 before playing Coffman on Sept. 30.

Last season, Thomas defeated Westland 34-27 in the Cougars' most competitive league game of the season. Westland finished 0-7 in the league and 1-9 overall.

"Thomas throws the ball around a little bit," White said. "Obviously, we believe that we can compete with Thomas and hopefully we can get into positions where we have that success."

Through five games, junior quarterback Korey Browning had completed 35 of 80 passes for 381 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions.

Senior Richard Zerrien had rushed for 218 yards on 68 carries.

"We're trying to get these kids to realize that we're working to improve on offense, defense (and) special teams, and put them in position to where we can have some success," White said.