The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls cross country team has finished near the middle of the pack in its invitationals after losing last year's top two runners to graduation.

The Worthington Kilbourne High School girls cross country team has finished near the middle of the pack in its invitationals after losing last year's top two runners to graduation.

But coach Melanie Williams said the Wolves are continuing to improve at a much faster rate than last season.

"Last year, we had pretty clear-cut No. 1 through No. 7 runners on varsity," Williams said. "This year, we have better depth and we don't know who will be in our top seven from one week to the next. We've got 10 to 12 girls who are capable of cracking our varsity lineup and that's made our practices a lot more competitive. The girls have been pushing each other harder, and as a result they're progressing more quickly. Our kids were far enough apart that we didn't always have that last year."

Just a week after all the Wolves ran personal-best times at the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 6 at Watkins Memorial, two of the junior varsity runners -- Morgan Gray and Meredith Lapp -- ran well enough at the Galion Cross Country Festival at Amann's Reservoir Park to earn varsity spots.

The Wolves then finished eighth (210) in the 13-team Bob Reall Invitational last Saturday at Lancaster behind champion Upper Arlington (23).

Maeve Beyer (42nd, 22 minutes, 34.8 seconds), Hilary Christopher (45th, 22:40.8), Leigh Kaufman (48th, 22:52.0), Gray (49th, 22:52.2), Dani Kaufman (51st, 22:55.2), Lapp (68th, 23:55.7) and Rachel Colby (69th, 24:01.6) competed.

"We're running a good pack, which is what we need to do to be competitive," Williams said. "We're just not up far enough to do better than the middle of pack yet. We just need to keep getting faster so we can move up, but I'm pleased with the progress that we're making and I'm optimistic that we're going to keep doing better in the future."

•Despite missing its top three runners -- Tim Dignan (chronic fatigue), Max Friedlander (leg injury) and Michael Majoros (hip injury) -- for most of the season, the Thomas Worthington boys team has finished near the middle of most of its meets.

The Cardinals were eighth (234) in the 18-team Colt Pack Invitational last Saturday at Lodo Cloverleaf behind champion North Canton Hoover (59) as Matt Haviland (34th, 17:48.4), Ivan Mwiruki (40th, 17:56.27), Madison Murphy (49th, 18:06.89), Kurt Lanno (50th, 18:08.23), Daniel McGeary (61st, 18:22.35), Josh Palmer (69th, 18:32.51) and Max Richard (96th, 19:50.61) competed.

"This has been a challenging season thus far, but it's also been a positive experience because some of our other kids have had the opportunity to step in there and help us do well," coach Jeff Henderson said. "Madison Murphy had a brain tumor removed in July of 2007, and he's come back and become our third runner. Josh Palmer is a senior captain who is running varsity races for the first time, and he's been a tremendous leader. And Daniel McGeary has dropped more than six minutes from his first race as a freshman last year."

Friedlander returned last Saturday to run in the open race, in which he finished second (17:32.52) behind Hoover's Jason Bosyj (17:27.18) to earn his No. 1 spot once again.

"We're hoping to have both Max and Michael back at full strength soon, so we'll be back at full strength for the (postseason) meets," Henderson said. "Tim is probably going to take the remainder of the season off to get ready for track season, but we're looking forward to having him back for his senior year."