Worthington Kilbourne High School girls cross country coach Melanie Williams said her runners trained as hard during the offseason as any she's worked with during her 22 years leading the program.

Worthington Kilbourne High School girls cross country coach Melanie Williams said her runners trained as hard during the offseason as any she's worked with during her 22 years leading the program.

She's optimistic that the Wolves' work ethic will pay dividends this fall.

Kilbourne opened Aug. 25 by scoring 149 points to finish fifth in the eight-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational behind champion Upper Arlington (33).

"Our seniors put a lot of time and thought into organizing the team's workouts during the summer, and this is probably the hardest-working group we've had as far as the summer goes," Williams said. "Our girls started practicing earlier than usual and they took their training a lot more seriously. We averaged 15 to 20 girls at our practices and I was surprised with how much better shape they were in when they showed up for their first day of practice with me."

Six of Kilbourne's top seven runners from a year ago have returned in seniors Jenna Boue and Katie Dyer, juniors Lily Fang, Kaitlyn Napoli and Leanne Wegley and sophomore Lauren Spangler.

Boue and seniors Adeline Ding and Allison Hooley are team captains.

Freshman Elissa Manchester also is expected to be a key contributor.

"We're all really close as a team and we're working together to push each other to do our best," Boue said. "We're writing our goal times on our wrists and that's helping to motivate us to run faster."

Last year, the Wolves scored 179 points in the OCC-Central Division meet at Westerville North to finish sixth, behind Dublin Coffman (38), Hilliard Davidson (48), UA (60), Thomas Worthington (101) and Hilliard Darby (121) and ahead of Central Crossing (218).

As part of OCC realignment this summer, Kilbourne and Darby moved to the OCC-Cardinal and Marysville and Olentangy Liberty went from the OCC-Cardinal to the OCC-Central.

The OCC-Cardinal also includes Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

Last season, Kilbourne placed ninth (237) in the 12-team Division I, district 2 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Scioto (29), as Napoli (27th, 21 minutes, 28.8 seconds), 2012 graduate Mariah Minichello (44th, 22:20.73), Wegley (54th, 22:49.59), Boue (56th, 22:57.8), Dyer (65th, 23:30.41), Spangler (68th, 23:40.23) and Fang (69th, 23:41.57) competed.

The top five teams and top 20 individuals qualified for the regional at Pickerington North.

"There's only a 13-second gap between our top nine runners, so we need to use that to our advantage and run as a pack," Williams said. "We can make it to regional if we run as well as we've practiced the first two weeks."

Kilbourne boys looking to rebuild

The Kilbourne boys team opened Aug. 25 by scoring 243 points to finish last in the eight-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational behind champion Olentangy (34).

Four of the Wolves' top seven runners from a year ago are back in junior Alex Irwin and sophomores Reed Costello, Jacob Durant and Ben Highley.

Seniors Kevin Liu, John McIntyre and Ian Young also are expected to be key contributors.

"We have a young team where 23 of our 32 runners are freshmen or sophomores, so we're in rebuilding mode," fifth-year coach Dave Strausbaugh said. "Half of our team is made up of first-year runners, so we're trying to establish a foundation for our future."

Last season, Kilbourne finished seventh (173) in the OCC-Central meet, behind Coffman (31), Davidson (38), Central Crossing (70), Darby (115), Thomas (135) and UA (166).

The Wolves then finished 11th (282) in the 14-team Division I, district 2 meet behind champion New Albany (64), as 2012 graduate Scott Weiss (36th, 17:52.49), 2012 graduate Brad Polivka (45th, 18:09.41), 2012 graduate Zachary Bloom (65th, 18:41.44), Durant (67th, 18:43.99), Irwin (69th, 18:46.97), Costello (77th, 19:24) and Highley (80th, 19:35) competed.

The top five teams and top 20 individuals qualified for regional.

"The OCC-Cardinal is still going to be a tough league," Strausbaugh said. "There may be a little more depth (in the OCC-Cardinal), so we'll need to run well to be competitive."

Thomas girls squad eyes return to regional

The Thomas girls team opened Aug. 18 by scoring 313 points to place 12th of 24 teams in the section A race of the OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway behind champion Mason (64).

The Cardinals' top seven performers were senior Cheyenne Buckingham (16th, 19:40.16), junior Ariel Rittenhouse (51st, 20:45.91), sophomore Laure Hill (61st, 21:00.17), junior Ashley Forte (71st, 21:19.58), junior Allison Huedepohl (127th, 22:46.65), senior Casey Keegan (130th, 22:49.19) and junior Janie Carter (138th, 22:59.31).

On Aug. 25, the Cardinals finished third (113) of 14 teams in the Bengal division of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North behind Westerville North (86) and New Albany (96), as Buckingham won in 19:47.2.

"We have great leaders providing great examples for the younger kids and the girls are ahead of where we thought they would be," 16th-year coach Andy Cox said.

After placing fourth in the OCC-Central meet last season, Thomas scored 114 points in the Division I, district 2 meet to finish fifth and advance to the regional meet, where the Cardinals finished 11th (281) of 16 teams behind champion Davidson (74).

Competing at regional were Buckingham (27th, 20:35.8), 2012 graduate Megan Neff (53rd, 21:17.26), Hill (75th, 21:49.99), 2012 graduate Annalee Haviland (82nd, 21:58.22), 2012 graduate Tara Murphy (84th, 22:00.84), Huedepohl (104th, 22:39.29) and senior Alexa Friedlander (117th, 23:36.85).

The top four teams and top 16 individuals at regional advanced to the state meet at National Trail Raceway.

"Obviously, we're in one of the more competitive leagues in the state, with teams like Coffman, UA and Davidson to contend with, and picking up Olentangy Liberty has just made the competition stronger," Cox said. "Our biggest goal is to qualify out of our district and then we'll go from there."

Thomas boys win opening meet

Led by second-year coach Eric Carter, the Thomas boys team opened Aug. 25 by scoring 71 points to win the 15-team Bengal division of the Pickerington Classic ahead of runner-up Thornville Sheridan (76).

Scoring for the Cardinals were Jonathan Allen (10th, 18:09.4), Jonathan Kissel (11th, 18:17.2), Michael Savage (12th, 18:23.2), Adam Hohlbein (16th, 18:35.7) and Ian Hohlbein (22nd, 18:46.6).

After placing fifth in the OCC-Central meet last year, Thomas scored 208 points to finish ninth in the 16-team Division I, district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Coffman (58).

Competing at district were Adam Withers (31st, 17:31.68), Jack Dotts (39th, 17:52.55), Harry Carter (40th, 17:54.86), Matt Montag (47th, 18:09.47), Andrew Wallace (51st, 18:18.55), Albert Darling (56th, 18:28.61) and John Miller (61st, 18:39.01). Darling, Miller, Wallace and Withers graduated last spring.

The top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to regional.