Westerville North High School girls cross country coach Johnny Jackson practically beamed after the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
The Warriors did not advance to state as a team, but according to Jackson, the two individuals who did -- junior sisters Haley and Heather Sandvik -- couldn't have run better races.
Heather Sandvik was second in 18 minutes, 56.22 seconds and Haley Sandvik was 10th (19:12.69) as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway. North was eighth (214) of 16 teams behind champion Gahanna (90).
Heather Sandvik finished behind Gahanna's Kelsey Sandlin (18:47.77).
"That whole pack of maybe six girls or so (near the front of the field), any of them could have won," Jackson said. "I wasn't surprised. There are some kickers in there and Sandlin is one of the kickers. That showed. Heather is a pacer who runs a devastating pace and other girls have to hang on. Other girls started to move when Heather moved."
Heather Sandvik was in the lead for much of the middle mile before Sandlin took over.
"I tried to be behind bigger runners so they could block the wind, then a few of us broke away," Sandvik said. "(Sandlin) was the one who went with me. The rest of them did not."
Jackson said his goal for Haley Sandvik was for her to place in the top 10.
"I wanted her to be ... no less than 16th at the mile mark, and then start moving," Jackson said. "She runs a better second half of the race than most kids do, so I knew she could be in the top 16, then run the second half better than everybody else and end up around 10th.
"She ran a perfect race. She ran exactly like I told her to run."
The Sandvik sisters were followed by junior Jocelyn Sharpe (56th, 20:42.09), sophomore Mary Swatzell (65th, 20:46.09), freshman Claire Wetta (109th, 22:22.78), senior Alex Mobley (112th, 22:39.39) and junior Morgan Bernhard (116th, 22:46.41).
"We're just missing that really good fifth runner," Jackson said. "If we had that, we might be one of the top four or five teams."
The Sandviks also were at state as individuals last year. Heather Sandvik was 20th (18:33.34) and Haley placed 91st (19:35.57). Heather was 63rd (19:32.07) at state as a freshman.
Upper Arlington (104), Hilliard Davidson (118) and Thomas Worthington (143) earned the other team berths to state.
Central girls cap successful season
In their first trip to regional as a team, the Central girls finished 15th with 292 points.
Senior Dana Roberts was 31st (20:07.99), followed by junior Tarike Osuobeni (50th, 20:30.72), sophomore Macy Leach (59th, 20:44.17), freshman Chauntress Like (94th, 21:39.26), senior Gracie Boden (98th, 21:52.57), sophomore Kelsie Potts (106th, 22:13.46) and freshman Torey Kuchan (111th, 22:34.03).
"We ran really well (Oct. 19 at district) and today, tactically, I didn't get us out quick enough," coach Ryan Borland said. "We thought we could be more patient early and it worked against us. We just couldn't overcome the gap. Dana got as high as 20th, but just couldn't get back to the pack of 15 or 16 kids."
Boden and Roberts are among seven seniors for Central.
"I'm most disappointed for Dana today," Borland said of Roberts, who has been among the Warhawks' top runners since her sophomore year. "She's worked hard. (State) was a goal and she had a great shot today, but tactically we didn't do what we needed to early."
Wildcats boys, Horton fall short of state
Junior Greg Smith's 20th-place finish (16:40.15) paced South's boys to 15th (333) of 16 teams at regional behind champion Dublin Jerome (66).
Freshman C.J. Johnson was 60th (17:18.01) for the Wildcats, who were making their first regional appearance as a team since 2009. Johnson was followed by juniors Derek Wei (69th, 17:29.85), Nicholas Vermaaten (104th, 18:02.37), Reed Watkins (118th, 18:35.65) and Connor Svendsen (120th, 18:53.59) and sophomore Jeremiah Vannest (121st, 18:59.73).
Davidson (100), New Albany (111) and Olentangy Liberty (118) earned state berths as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced.
North senior Nick Horton, the only Warriors boys runner to advance to regional, was 59th (17:17.92).