Worthington Kilbourne High School boys cross country coach Dave Strausbaugh was hoping his team wouldn't miss a beat despite losing its top three runners from a year ago to graduation.
As it turned out, the Wolves experienced many of the growing pains associated with a rebuilding season.
"I was hoping we'd be able to reload, but we needed to rebuild this year," Strausbaugh said. "We were a young team, with 23 of our 32 runners being freshmen or sophomores. But a lot of our guys got (personal records) this season and I think we're going to be stronger next year."
The Wolves finished eighth (182 points) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet Oct. 13 behind Westerville North (34), Dublin Jerome (51), Hilliard Bradley (95), host Hilliard Darby (113), Dublin Scioto (148), Westerville South (150) and Westerville Central (164).
On Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial, Kilbourne placed 10th (264) in the 13-team Division I, district 1 meet behind regional-qualifiers Westerville North (45), Pickerington North (48), Olentangy (97), St. Charles (132) and Pickerington Central (152).
Scoring were senior Johnathon McIntyre (17th, 17 minutes, 35.41 seconds), sophomore Ben Highley (55th, 18:43.86), sophomore Jacob Durant (58th, 18:48.47), sophomore Reed Costello (66th, 19:05.93) and junior Alex Brothers (68th, 19:09.53). Also competing were freshman Tanner Taylor (76th, 19:25.81) and sophomore Dylan Roesch (80th, 19:45.21).
The top 20 individuals advanced to regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, where McIntyre finished 93rd (17:47.12) as the top 16 individuals advanced to the state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
"Our division of the OCC was tough with four eventual regional qualifiers," Strausbaugh said. "We ran well at OCC even though we finished last. Our team average there was 17:23, which was over a minute faster than the team average we had there last year. And our No. 1 runner (senior Ian Young) pulled his hamstring while training and couldn't compete at district, which hurt our score there.
"The good news is we return six of the seven runners who competed at district and our guys take running seriously. We just have to take the next step and this offseason is going to be critical."
Kilbourne girls show improvement
The Kilbourne girls team scored 173 points to finish seventh in the OCC-Cardinal meet behind Scioto (40), Jerome (66), Westerville North (72), Bradley (100), Darby (109) and Westerville Central (146) and ahead of Westerville South (231).
The Wolves were eighth (189) in the 10-team district 3 meet behind regional-qualifiers Upper Arlington (49), Scioto (61), Jerome (73), Thomas (115), Darby (121) and Olentangy Orange (176). Scoring were junior Kaitlyn Napoli (16th, 20:24.17), senior Jenna Boue' (30th, 21:05.95), junior LeAnne Wegley (36th, 21:21.99), senior Katie Dyer (52nd, 22:09.92) and junior Lily Fang (61st, 23:07.82).
The top 24 individuals advanced to regional, where Napoli finished 97th (21:37.9).
"Over half our team got (personal records) in the OCC meet, so it was a good day for us," coach Melanie Williams said.
"We had a decent showing at district, too, although I think we could have been sixth if we had a good day.
"Overall, this team was one of the best we've had. Our top 10 runners were all under 22:11 and we've never had that before. We're losing two seniors, but we're moving to a smaller division of the OCC (OCC-Capital) next year, and that should help us some."
Thomas girls reach regional
The Thomas girls team scored 107 points to finish fifth in the OCC-Central meet Oct. 13 at Darby behind Dublin Coffman (43), Hilliard Davidson (51), UA (51) and Olentangy Liberty (102) and ahead of Marysville (188) and Central Crossing (196).
"Some of the best competition in the state is in the OCC-Central," coach Andy Cox said. "We ran well but some of our girls were a little shell-shocked by the competition there."
The Cardinals then scored 115 points to place fourth in the district 3 meet behind champion UA (49) and 290 points to place 12th at regional behind champion Davidson (50).
Scoring at regional were senior Cheyenne Buckingham (17th, 19:29.49), sophomore Laura Hill (37th, 20:15.92), junior Ariel Rittenhouse (81st, 21:18.42), junior Ashley Forte (84th, 21:22.22) and junior Allison Huedepohl (99th, 21:43.88).
"It was bittersweet for Cheyenne because she broke into our team's all-time top 10 list with her performance at OCC (ninth, 18:49.3), but she missed making it to state by just one spot," Cox said.
"Our whole team had a really positive season and we grew together as a family. We have some good experience coming back, and now we're looking to make the next leap forward past regional. The girls have a plan and they're going to follow it in the offseason."
Thomas boys had solid season
The Thomas boys team scored 128 points to finish fourth in the OCC-Central meet behind Davidson (28), Liberty (39) and Coffman (86) and ahead of UA (141), Marysville (142), Central Crossing (210) and Westland (226).
The Cardinals then scored 161 points to place sixth in the 12-team district 2 meet behind regional-qualifiers Davidson (34), Lancaster (59), Bradley (99), Darby (131) and Coffman (141). Scoring were junior Jack Dotts (25th, 17:36.86), sophomore Jonathan Kissel (28th, 17:49.22), sophomore Jonathan Allen (31st, 17:56.04), freshman Zachary Emptage (38th, 18:07.53) and senior Oscar Lisa (39th, 18:08.22).