Just as it did last year, the Westerville Central High School girls cross country team has a new coach.

Just as it did last year, the Westerville Central High School girls cross country team has a new coach.

But this season, that new coach, Ryan Borland, is someone with extensive experience at the college level and a proven track record of success.

He also is someone familiar with the boys coach, Jason Loughman, and the two intend to work together.

"Having both of us out there helps to encourage and motivate," Loughman said. "The kids see how excited the coaches are about running and I think it gets contagious. Both teams will be able to learn things from each other and feed off each other's enthusiasm."

It is the same tactic Borland employed at Otterbein in the late 1990s, and the move changed the fortunes for what had been a lackluster women's program. He coached the men's and women's programs at Otterbein for 11 seasons, leading the women to two Ohio Athletic Conference championships and to their first national meet in 2003.

"It brings the attitude and spirit of teams working together to build and achieve," Borland said. "It creates a family atmosphere. The boys get inspired by what the girls are doing and vice versa."

Borland, a teacher at Genoa Middle School, stepped down at Otterbein to spend more time with his family and off the recruiting trail. He has had to alter his style a little, though.

"College is all about fine details and adjustments," he said. "Here you have kids learning about the sport for the first time. It's a transition, obviously, but it's a fun challenge getting to teach more about the sport."

His time as a runner at Otterbein overlapped two seasons with Loughman. They decided after Borland's hiring that they would join the programs, overlapping training, practices and team-bonding activities.

The boys team last year finished fifth (120 points) in the six-team OCC-Central Division meet behind champion Pickerington North (27), then was 13th (293) in an 18-team field at the Division I, district 2 meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (45).

Graduate Terrance Walton was 13th (16 minutes, 43.76 seconds) at district to advance to regional, where he was 19th (16:39) as the top 16 advanced to state.

Others at district included juniors Nick Shepherd (52nd, 17:31.63) and Aaron Shepherd (69th, 17:54.55), graduate Shondell Thomas (75th, 18:02.5), sophomore Dan Steigerwald (88th, 18:25.14) and graduates Brent Ford (90th, 18:27.52) and Ben Hoover (106th, 19:17.19).

Freshman Josh Edens also is among the front-runners.

"(Nick Shepherd, Aaron Shepherd, Steigerwald and Edens) have separated themselves from the rest," Loughman said. "One of the keys for us will be how close that fifth man is to the top four.

At the Pickerington Classic last Saturday at Pickerington North, freshmen Connor Bush and Brandon Shirey ran well as Central was eighth in the Panther Division.

Junior Ambrose Moses completed the top seven.

The girls team was fifth in the Tiger Division last Saturday, with freshman Cassie Kelly and sophomore Sarah O'Brien leading the way.

Last season, Central was sixth (185) in the OCC-Central behind champion Thomas Worthington (28), then was 14th (412) in district 1 behind champion Dublin Coffman (38). At district, senior Deborah Wile was 61st (22:12.82), followed by O'Brien (70th, 22:34.24), senior Morgan Shawver (78th, 23:13.9), graduate Kaitlyn McCartney (101st, 25:10.99), junior Nana Owusu-Kwarteng (102nd (25:15.16), graduate Libby Lane (25:17.13) and junior Alyssa Kaufman (109th, 26:05.43).

Borland expects Kelly and O'Brien to be the team's top two runners, pushed by junior Catherine Ubry and freshman Tarela Osubeni. Behind them will be Shawver, Wile and freshman Jordan Hoffman.

"We're going to be a better team," Borland said. "But it still may take a few years for us really to turn heads."

At a glance

Coach: Boys -- Jason Loughman, sixth season; Girls -- Ryan Borland, first season

Next meet: Saturday at Westerville Classic at North

Key runners: Boys -- Aaron Shepherd, Nick Shepherd and Dan Steigerwald; Girls -- Cassie Kelly, Sara O'Brien and Catherine Ubry