The Thomas Worthington High School girls cross country team was disappointed after finishing sixth (198) behind champion Cincinnati Oak Hills (61) in the Division I regional last Saturday at Pickerington North.

The Thomas Worthington High School girls cross country team was disappointed after finishing sixth (198) behind champion Cincinnati Oak Hills (61) in the Division I regional last Saturday at Pickerington North.

The top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to the state meet Saturday at Scioto Downs. The top runner for Thomas was Claire Graupmann, who was 41st in 20 minutes, 26.13 seconds. Other contributors for the Cardinals were Amber McAlpine (45th, 20:27.39), Melissa Girgis (46th, 20:28.19), Tiffany Sias (51st, 20:38.10), Tara Murphy (61st, 20:56.63), Helen Smith (77th, 21:15.27) and Annalee Haviland (83rd, 21:28.58).

"I'm a little disappointed," coach Andy Cox said. "I really believed that the girls could take that next step. Sometimes in life there are teams that are just faster than you on a given day. We had a nice conversation about taking this and building for the future."

The Cardinals finished behind OCC-Central Division counterparts Upper Arlington (third, 79) and Hilliard Davidson (fifth, 123).

Cox remains upbeat for next season as the Cardinals return an abundance of talent. The team is putting an emphasis on qualifying for the state meet next year.

"We want to make it to state because we've been disappointed the last two years and haven't done well at the regional," Graupmann said.

Thomas doesn't have a true front-runner and that can be credited to their style of pack running. Cox said the depth of his team is one reason the Cardinals not only will contend for another district title next year, but possibly even more.

"We had two freshman running today at the regional in Haviland and Murphy. We have valuable experience and three juniors coming back," he said. "We've learned a lot and hopefully we can use that for next year."

•The Thomas boys team was dealt a significant blow when top runner Max Friedlander broke an arm in the week leading to the regional.

The Cardinals paid for it by placing 15th (327) in a 16-team field as Davidson (76) won. Friedlander still competed, but he finished 63rd in 17:23.25.

"It was pretty tough, but I was just worried about how it would affect my form more than anything," he said. "I let it get to me, but I don't want to make any excuses."

Even finishing in the bottom half of the region, coach Jeff Henderson was proud of his team and the work it put in this season.

"I'm very proud of what the guys have done this year," Henderson said. "They ran a gutsy race, got right up front and did their best to hang on. This is a very powerful race, competition-wise, and there are a lot of quality teams and individuals. The guys gave their all."

Following Friedlander were Madison Murphy (71st, 17:30.19), Kurt Lanno (74th, 17:33.60), Dylan Metz (88th, 17:43.77), Ivan Mwiruki (100th, 17:58.84), Josh Palmer (104th, 18:01.06) and Matt Haviland (105th, 18:02.15).

"They've had a tough season with injuries and illnesses. Even through that, they've all pulled together and have run their strongest races," Henderson said.

•Sam Dixius was the only participant for the Kilbourne boys team.

He finished 55th in 17:15.89.

The Cardinals' Tara Murphy holds a lead over Mason's Alyssa Carman (left) last Saturday during the Division I regional meet. The girls squad finished sixth (198) behind champion Cincinnati Oak Hills (61).

Kilbourne's Sam Dixius finished 55th last Saturday at the Division I district meet. He was the team's only participant.