More numbers has translated to more success for the Westerville North High School girls cross country team.

More numbers has translated to more success for the Westerville North High School girls cross country team.

Two years ago in coach Mary Kloepfer's first season, the Warriors had seven runners. Last year, they had 14. Now they're up to 31.

"Having a big team pushes the stronger runners to be better, and the top runners bring everyone else along," Kloepfer said.

Last year, North was fifth (112 points) in the six-team OCC-Buckeye Division meet behind champion Dublin Coffman (32), then had its season end at the Division I, district 1 race as it took 10th (267) in a field of 18 behind champion Coffman (38).

Junior Madison West (51st, 21:51.52) led the Warriors at district, followed by sophomores Sarah Schlotter (53rd, 21:53.61), Aubrieanna Payne (62nd, 22:13.26), Ashley Van Sickle (73rd, 22:53.46) and Brandi Peterman (97th, 24:49.55).

Russo did not run last Saturday in the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North -- the Warriors were 14th in the Panther Division -- but Koepfer expects her to be a leader.

"She's a great kid and a natural runner," Kloepfer said of Russo. "She'll do whatever it takes to be the best."

West was 67th (22:57) last Saturday, 20 seconds ahead of Schlotter.

Van Sickle, sophomore Kaitlyn Kropf and freshmen Kristen Hannaford, Ashley Pavolino and Renee Geiger are the other top runners.

•The boys team lost seven graduates after finishing third (71) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Hilliard Davidson (27) and Reynoldsburg (46) and seventh (203) in the 21-team district meet behind champion Reynoldsburg (67) as the top six advanced to regional.

The Warriors, however, had an individual state qualifier as sophomore Jeff Hannaford was 16th (16:33) at regional to take the last spot. At state, he was 81st (16:44.38).

This year's team has eight first-year runners among a roster of 21, meaning there is some rebuilding to do.

Hannaford and his twin brother, Brian, are the leaders. Brian also advanced to the regional last year, taking 26th (16:49). Graduate Patrick McCormack was 79th (17:30).

"(The Hannaford brothers) provide good leadership in actual race execution and work every practice to get the full benefit from it," coach David Weaner said. "They're starting in the mid-17 range and should be improving their times every race."

Other top runners include seniors Greg Pilcher, Drew Williams and Tommy Williams, junior Ben Black and sophomores Scott Collins and Drew Hathaway.

Weaner said he still expects the team to be in the mix for a regional berth.

"This is going to be a bit of a teaching year," he said.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how the team progresses."

At a glance

•Coach: Boys -- David Weaner, 30th season; Girls -- Mary Kloepfer, third season

•Next meet: Saturday at home Westerville Classic

•Key runners: Boys -- Brian Hannaford and Jeff Hannaford; Girls -- Marilu Russo, Sarah Schlotter and Madison West