Westerville News & Public Opinion

Boys Cross Country

'Cats hope to benefit from team excursion

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The Westerville South High School boys cross country team spent the first weekend of what it hopes will be a landmark season at a camp, strengthening as a unit.

"This is the third year we've done it, but the first time we've done it after school started," eighth-year coach Jimmy Gaul said of a two-day trip to Indian Bear Lodge in Walhonding, in rural Knox County. "We brought everyone together from the boys and girls teams and talked about our goals. We want to be on the same page as a team. We don't necessarily have to be best friends, but we must be great teammates."

Senior Greg Smith returns to lead South, which finished fourth in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet last year and fifth in Division I, district 2 to earn its first trip to regional as a team since 2009.

That was where South's season ended, as it finished 15th and did not advance to state.

Smith was 20th, four spots shy of advancing to state as an individual. He ran a school-record time of 15 minutes, 47.48 seconds in the league meet.

The Wildcats opted not to compete on the first weekend of the regular season, instead deciding to open Saturday, Aug. 30, in the Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion.

Other than sophomore C.J. Johnson, who transferred to Westerville North, the rest of South's top seven has returned. Also back are seniors Connor Svendsen, Nicholas Vermaaten, Reed Watkins and Derek Wei and junior Jeremiah Vannest.

Vannest was a first-year runner in 2013. Johnson was the team's second runner behind Smith at regional.

"These guys are excited to get going," Gaul said. "If you are among the top 16 teams in central Ohio (at regional), you are doing something right. The guys are serious about logging miles and building their aerobic base, and that work showed at the end of last season. You see programs like Olentangy Liberty, New Albany and Hilliard Davidson that are good all the time, and you want to get to that level. We respect those programs, but we don't bow down to anyone."

According to Gaul, other potential varsity runners include juniors Robert Forbus and Peter Westfall, sophomore Nathan Miller and freshman Nathan Ware.

Warriors hope seniors can key big season

North coach Dave Weaner admitted that during a summer trip to Colorado with some of his runners, he wanted to see how they responded to training at elevations as high as 13,000 feet.

"We went out for 15 days and did some running, weightlifting and some work with their Bureau of Land Management," said Weaner, who is in his 12th season. "The guys weren't gassed when they jogged at 12,000 feet. I wanted to see how they would react. They were jogging, talking back and forth and laughing. Now if they can do well out there, I think they can handle themselves in Westerville at, what, 900 feet above sea level?"

Junior Matt Parkhurst is the only remaining runner from the top seven of North's 2012 team that finished fourth at state and was led by now-Notre Dame runner Jacob Dumford and Kent Ford, who now runs at Miami University. Both were 2013 graduates.

The Warriors fell short of regional as a team last year, finishing sixth in Division I, district 2 as the top four teams advanced. Nick Horton, a 2014 graduate, did qualify out as an individual and placed 59th to fall 43 spots short of a state berth.

According to Weaner, North's top runners will include Parkhurst, senior Trevor Dilley and junior Adam Sherrard. They will be joined by seniors Evan Crew, Alex Cummings, Daniel Mallett and Kevin Vestal, juniors George Matthews and Bryan Peck and sophomores Jack Borden, Johnson, Nick DeVore, Jacques Gauthier and Keeton Rafferty.

According to Weaner, Ohio High School Athletic Association rules allow Johnson to run the entire season because he transferred for academic reasons, but he must sit out the Warriors' first four meets because of the school district's transfer rule.

The Warriors opened Aug. 23 by finishing fourth (174) in the 17-team Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North behind champion Dublin Coffman (67). Parkhurst was fifth (16:47.5), followed by Dilley (16th, 17:12.9), Mallett (43rd, 17:58.8), senior Zach McConaghy (58th, 18:19.2), Sherrard (62nd, 18:24.6), Peck (86th, 18:48.2) and Crew (88th, 18:49.5).

"All things being equal, I think we can get to regional (as a team)," Weaner said. "From there, a mix of any two, three or four kids can make it to state. I have high hopes. This group could be back at state for the fourth time in five years. I truly believe that."

Warhawks look to reload with youth

Central coach Jason Loughman has overseen the Warhawks' program since the school opened in 2003, but this year presents a new challenge as 10 of the team's 23 runners are freshmen.

"This is definitely the largest crop of freshmen that we've had. Blend four or five sophomores with that, and we are very young," Loughman said. "The thing I love is their passion and excitement about distance running. Our numbers are down, but the 23 we have are all in. We have several returnees who are doing a nice job setting the tone."

According to Loughman, seniors Cameron George and Jacob Mostyn, junior Noah Corbett and sophomores Mitchell McClain and Derek Rymers are expected to lead a lineup that also includes senior Johnny Derringer, sophomore Hunter Hudgins and freshman Sam Reyes.

Mostyn is a first-year runner who also plays lacrosse. Hudgins also is a first-year runner who played basketball and lacrosse last year.

George was Central's top runner in two meets last year, a spot also occupied by 2014 graduates Conor Hollern and Dustin Edens. McClain, Rymers and sophomore Jacob Shirey also were in the top seven last year, but Loughman said this year's top group could remain fluid well into the season.

"That's not necessarily settled at all," Loughman said. "I really believe there could be new guys in our top seven or top 10 by the week."

Central opened Aug. 23 by placing second in the 14-team North Robinson Colonel Crawford Early Bird Invitational, scoring 59 points to finish behind Colonel Crawford (33). George was third in 17:06.66, followed by Corbett (sixth, 17:15.8), McClain (10th, 17:58.64), Reyes (19th, 18:31.23), Mostyn (23rd, 18:42.36), Derringer (37th, 19:19.24) and sophomore Max Ramsey (40th, 19:37.31).

Schedules

CENTRAL

Aug. 23 -- North Robinson Colonel Crawford Early Bird Invitational

Aug. 30 -- Westerville Classic at Westerville North

Sept. 6 -- Chillicothe Zane Trace Invitational

Sept. 13 -- Galion Cross Country Festival

Sept. 20 -- Otterbein Invitational

Sept. 27 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North

Oct. 2 -- 2-mile meet at home

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Hilliard Darby

NORTH

Aug. 23 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North

Aug. 30 -- Westerville Classic at home

Sept. 6 -- Tiffin Cross Country Carnival

Sept. 13 -- Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park

Sept. 20 -- Bob Reall Classic at Lancaster

Sept. 27 -- Cincinnati St. Xavier Invitational

Oct. 4 -- Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Hilliard Darby

SOUTH

Aug. 30 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 6 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 13 -- Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park

Sept. 20 -- Otterbein Invitational

Sept. 27 -- Erin Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club

Oct. 4 -- Johnstown Invitational at Infirmary Mound Park

Oct. 11 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Hilliard Darby

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