Whitehall-Yearling High School boys cross country coach Robert Taylor loves competition -- not only against other teams, but within his team.
So he doesn't mind that the top seven spots on the Rams are up for grabs.
"Our top seven is going to be highly competitive this year," said Taylor, who is in his seventh season. "There's going to be at least 10 runners that will be fighting for those seven spots."
Junior Chris Charles was the team's top runner at district last season and again is contending for the top spot. He placed 68th of 126 runners in the Division I, district 3 meet in 17 minutes, 58.8 seconds.
Charles also led the Rams in their season-opening meet, as he finished 19th (18:04.3) of 169 runners in the 32nd annual Dan Reid Invitational on Aug. 26 at home.
"I think it's going to be a great season," Charles said. "In recent years we have had problems with attendance or numbers for practice. This year we've had a lot more people show up every single day, so people are determined. The work ethic is great."
Whitehall finished sixth (178) of 10 teams in the opener behind champion Westerville Central (44). Freshman Yared Yesuf was 42nd (19:19.2) and junior Isaiah Sellers was 52nd (19:43.9).
Sellers, senior Mikel Wilson and junior Alex Rodriguez all ran at district last season.
Senior Efrem Gebreambes, who was the team's No. 2 runner as a freshman but saw limited race time the past two seasons because of other commitments, has returned on a full-time basis, Taylor said.
Juniors Ben Pooch and Jonathan Walker and sophomores Josiah Cambron and Carter Paddock also are pushing for spots in the top seven.
Junior Resean Hutter also is looking to contribute.
Taylor said he has seen an increase in the team's popularity in the school, as he has 23 runners on the roster.
"We've turned the corner," he said. "We're maintaining good numbers from year to year and we don't have to scramble like we used to for kids. It's nice. We were trying to build the program. I wanted to get 15 boys when I started coaching and now the last two years we've been over 20."
The Rams are looking to improve their finish in the MSL-Ohio Division meet after placing fifth (123) last season behind champion Columbus Academy (35).
"I think we're going to develop nicely as we go along," Taylor said. "We have more depth than we've ever had. We have more competition for our top seven than I've ever had. My top five are pretty sure, but after that it's going to be a dogfight."
Girls runners sparked
The girls cross country team features underclassmen seeking spots in the top five.
The Rams figure to be led by sophomore Selamawit Alebachew, who has missed time early this season with a finger injury after she missed last year's Division II district meet with a concussion.
Sophomore Yabesera Tadesse was the team's No. 2 runner last fall, although she missed the district meet with an ankle injury.
Sophomore Pashience Sellers was a top-five runner last season. Also back are seniors Paula Wilson and Hannah Wright and sophomore Cali Justice.
Freshman Shamya Wilson has emerged as an early contender for the top five.
Also looking to contribute are junior Milan Atkins and sophomores Tatiana Figueroa, Abadit Negasi and Bethlehem Tamene.
In the Dan Reid Invitational, Wilson was 60th (26:39), Tadesse was 69th (27:23.3) and Justice was 73rd (28:21.6) of 93 runners.
"I'm hoping within the next month or so the times will start dropping," third-year coach Gabriela Ivoska said. "I'm pretty excited."
Last season, Whitehall was fifth (116) in the MSL-Ohio meet behind champion Bexley (35).
"We have a good 12 girls who I think will stick with it, and only about five of them have run so far," Ivoska said. "The other girls are trying to get themselves into shape to be able to compete with us. We have a lot of sophomores and juniors."
Football team to
The football team will look to continue its recent domination of Whetstone when the teams meet Friday, Sept. 8, in the Rams' home opener.
Whitehall lost its opener to Watterson 41-6 on Aug. 25 and again to Northland 31-28 on Sept. 1.
The Rams and Whetstone have met the past four seasons with Whitehall winning all four contests, including 38-14 last year.
Whetstone opened with a 13-6 loss at Watkins Memorial on Aug. 25 and lost to Briggs 31-6 on Sept. 1.
Against Watkins Memorial, junior Marlon Curry led Whetstone by rushing for 50 yards and a 1-yard touchdown.
Junior Terris Crider has taken over at quarterback in place of 2017 graduate Jack Staggs, who was a three-year starter.
Whitehall and Whetstone both compete in Division II, Region 7.
Girls volleyball coach
pleased with start
Girls volleyball coach Danielle Jackson has enjoyed her team's start, as the Rams were 3-2 before playing in a six-team event Sept. 2 at Heath.
Whitehall opened MSL-Ohio play by defeating Bexley 25-18, 25-19, 25-23 on Aug. 31. The Rams defeated Harvest Prep 25-21, 25-10, 25-22 on Aug. 21 and Briggs 25-18, 25-15 on Aug. 19.
"We are looking good so far," Jackson said. "The girls have been practicing hard the last few days to prepare for league play. We have been working on some mental toughness to get us through the close games. We have all the talent and skill we need, they just have to keep it together mentally."
Jackson said the play of Makhia Hinton, Trinity Johnson and Sarah Seberig has sparked the early success.
Two girls soccer
A pair of girls soccer games were postponed after coach Deanna Mascia took a medical leave, according to athletics director Bill Hughett.
The Rams' game at Worthington Christian was postponed Aug. 26 and rescheduled for Monday, Sept. 11.
Whitehall's game against Bexley was postponed Aug. 30 and no makeup date had been set as of late last week.
Whitehall's game against Bexley was postponed Aug. 30 and was rescheduled to be played Sept. 5.
Aug. 26 – Dan Reid Invitational at home
Sept. 2 – Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion
Sept. 9 – Northland Invitational at Whetstone
Sept. 27 – Rick Mettle Invitational at Walnut Ridge
Sept. 30 – Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Oct. 7 – Johnstown Harrier Showdown at Sportsman Club
Oct. 14 – MSL-Ohio meet at London Country Club
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
*Sept. 13 – Home vs. Columbus Academy
*Sept. 11 – At Worthington Christian in makeup from Aug. 26
*Sept. 13 – At Academy
Sept. 7 – At Wellington
*Sept. 12 – Home vs. Worthington Christian
Sept. 13 – Home vs. Canal Winchester
*Sept. 7 – Home vs. Academy
Sept. 11 – Home vs. Millersport