Young runners turn focus to district meet
The Whitehall-Yearling High School boys cross country team prepared for its first district race in Division I by competing in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 12 at London Country Club.
Led by senior Nahom Hailu, the Rams finished fourth (102) behind Bexley (38), Columbus Academy (58) and Grandview (66) and ahead of Worthington Christian (117) and London (140).
Hailu was fourth of 39 runners in 17 minutes, 29 seconds. Grandview's Luke Evans won in 16:30.
"I was very pleased with Nahom's performance," coach Robert Taylor said. "It was a good run before district. The kid from Grandview who ran against him was really tough."
Also competing for the Rams were Ana Abduljelil (16th, 18:38), Anthony Spaulding (20th, 20:01), Kevin Diaz (30th, 21:09), Branham Kipruto (32nd, 21:35), Tamaghe Shiferaw (33rd, 21:37) and Jiawen Zhen (36th, 22:40).
"The team came in fourth in a (realigned) league," Taylor said. "Four of my seven runners were freshmen and I'll probably have freshmen running (this) week at district. We're a very young team. I'm very pleased with our future. I thought we competed very well. We've really grown this year. It's been really fun to see."
After previously competing in Division II district competition, the Rams will make their debut in Division I on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Watkins Memorial.
Whitehall will compete in the 15-team district 1 race, which also includes Hilliard Davidson, New Albany and Pickerington North. The top five teams and the top 20 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at North.
"This is a fun time of year," Taylor said. "We're in Division I with all these freshmen and I don't expect us to go anywhere out of district, but Nahom has a good shot to make regional. We're going to try and support him and see what we can do."
Last season in the Division II, district 1 race, Hailu was eighth (17:48.87) as Whitehall earned a team berth to regional by finishing second (91) of 12 teams behind Granville (16).
Hailu was 23rd (17:20.02) at regional, as the Rams finished 14th (274) of 16 teams behind champion Granville (44).
Also on Oct. 12, the girls team did not have enough runners for a team score in the league meet. Academy was first (45), followed by Bexley (48), Grandview (57), London (85) and Worthington Christian (136).
Katherine Ortiz was 29th (29:29) of 34 runners, Claudia Fuentes was 31st (31:30) and Ariana Oldham was 33rd (35:26).
"The girls team has just been a struggle the whole year getting kids and runners," Taylor said.
"Katherine Ortiz has been our stalwart the whole time through. We're going to rebuild the girls team from scratch next year."
The Rams will compete in the Division I, district 1 race.
Last season in the Division II district meet, the Rams did not have enough runners for a team score as Ortiz was 104th (28:06.05) of 121 runners.
Football team to play host to London
The football team will look for its second consecutive win when it plays host to London on Friday, Oct. 18.
The Rams snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating Grandview 36-0 on Oct. 11.
Whitehall is 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the MSL-Ohio.
After losing three games this season by two points or fewer, including two in overtime, the Rams turned in a dominating effort against the Bobcats.
"We felt like the last couple of weeks we've been in the games, but we could just never find the way to finish it, so winning big was huge for our confidence," quarterback Cody Koons said. "We just really came together as a team. We realized that if we're still going to save our season we have to finish out 6-4. We said we have to go out and get it done and that's what we did."
Running back Shaquille Alexander rushed for 213 yards with touchdowns of 25, 72 and 83 yards on 15 carries.
Koons completed seven of 13 passes for 85 yards with a touchdown and rushed for 60 yards on 12 carries.
Linebacker Braden Barker added a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"Our defense showed up," coach Jake Kuhner said. "They stuck to their responsibilities and it showed with a big old zero up on the board. On offense, Cody and Shaquille did usually what they do at the end of the game as well."
For the season, Alexander has rushed for 802 yards and 13 touchdowns on 165 carries.
Koons has completed 72 of 128 passes for 1,071 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 676 yards and six touchdowns on 126 carries.
Wide receiver/running back B.J. Upchurch has 32 receptions for 489 yards and four touchdowns.
London is 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the league. The Red Raiders have lost two consecutive games, including 56-6 at home against Lima Central Catholic on Oct. 11.
Quarterback Dylan Miller, wide receiver Zach Newman and defensive lineman Roger Pack are among the top players for London.
"London is more of a power team," Kuhner said. "They're a disciplined team. We're looking for some turnovers on defense and hopefully our offense keeps on playing like it's been playing."
Girls volleyball team closes regular season
The girls volleyball team finished the regular season by losing to Worthington Christian 25-22, 25-20, 25-15 on Oct. 8 and Grandview 25-12, 25-22, 25-16 on Oct. 10 in MSL-Ohio matches.
Whitehall finished eighth in the league at 0-14.
The 17th-seeded Rams were 4-18 overall before playing host to 20th-seeded Brookhaven in the first round of the Division II district tournament Oct. 15. The winner plays at top-seeded Hartley in the second round Saturday, Oct. 19, with that winner advancing to a district semifinal Oct. 24 at Worthington Christian Middle School.
"The girls ended the (regular) season realizing even though we didn't win as many games as they would've liked, we did a lot of growing as a team and program," coach Danielle Smith said.
"We were losing close games and being competitive, which is a step in the right direction to start turning close losses into close wins."
Soccer team finishes eighth in league
The boys soccer team finished 0-6-1 in the MSL-Ohio after losing to Grandview 6-0 on Oct. 8.
The Rams finished eighth in the league behind champion Bexley (5-0-2).
Whitehall was seeded 23rd in the Division II district tournament and played at fourth-seeded Granville in the first round Oct. 15. The Rams were 1-13-1 overall.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Bexley in the second round Thursday, Oct. 17, with that winner playing fifth-seeded Jonathan Alder, 11th-seeded Mifflin or 14th-seeded London in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 22.