Having lost one of the best runners in program history, the Hilliard Davidson High School girls cross country team entered the season looking to develop its own identity.
Gone is 2017 graduate India Johnson, who won the Division I state title last season at National Trail Raceway in a course-record 17 minutes, 28.6 seconds. Johnson, who is running at Michigan State, also won regional (18:36.2), district (17:55.5) and OCC-Central Division (19:15.27) titles a year ago.
Davidson has returned five runners from last season, when it finished 14th (336 points) of 20 teams at state, behind champion Centerville (120).
"With this team, what's really been a motivator, a source of inspiration for them, is, how are we going to answer graduating India?" sixth-year coach Nate King said. "She got a lot of recognition for us last year, and I almost think the team last year relied on her a little too much. So without her, we've had a lot step up and, at least as of now, we're a stronger team than we were last year."
Junior Sophie Lewis, who finished 101st (19:44.5) of 178 runners at state last season, has emerged as the team's No. 1 runner.
Freshman Lindsay Stull, who King believes will "have a major impact," has been the No. 2 runner.
Junior Ellie Tighe and sophomore Sydney Petersen, who finished 156th (20:46.4) and 118th (19:59.7), respectively, at state last year, have been the third and fourth runners, while senior Lauren Alsko has been the No. 5 runner.
"The team is looking good," Alsko said. "It's probably the best I've seen in my four years. We lost (Johnson), but we've focused on forming a really strong pack of two, three, four, five, six runners, so the pack can make up for what we lost with India. I think we can be even stronger than last year."
Senior Meghan Sculli, who missed the start of the season as she recovers from a stress fracture in her left leg, finished 134th (20:15) at state last season.
Freshman Justine Smith rounded out the top seven early in the season.
Also back is senior Shivani Raju, who was 111th (19:54.6) at state.
Sophomore Riley Ries and freshmen Sofia Bishoff and Elise Byard also have been competing for a starting spot.
"We don't have an established India-type, so we fluctuate who might be one, who might be two, who might be three," King said. "Hopefully it will change week to week because of how close they've been training."
Davidson opened the season by competing in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational on Aug. 19 at National Trail Raceway.
The Wildcats finished second (108) of 24 teams, behind champion Centerville (52).
Stull placed 15th (19:10.9) and Tighe was 19th (19:21.6) of 242 runners.
Boys cross country
team features depth
The boys cross country team has returned a solid group that helped lead the Wildcats to a ninth-place finish (233) at state last season, behind champion Solon (79).
"We've been dedicated since last year to what we're going to try to do this year," 21st-year coach Pat Schlecht said. "They've all progressed. We're going to try to be patient like we were last year. We're going to give it a go to see if we can compete for a state title this year with a number of great teams."
The top returnee is senior Andrew Tighe, who finished 35th (15:58) of 186 runners at state last season.
"We've been training pretty hard," Tighe said. "I know I only have one (season) left, so I figure I can't hold back now. I want to end it on the highest note possible. I want to get back (to state) and I want to see how much we can do. It's a pretty special team we have, so it would mean a lot."
Schlecht said five runners have been competing for the No. 2 spot, including senior Andrew Taylor, who was 90th (16:28.6) at state last season.
Also back are juniors Connor Johanssen and Max LeClair.
Juniors Jack Altman and Nick Sauvey also have been competing for the second spot.
"They're interchangeable parts to this point, which is always good," Schlecht said. "That gives us six strong runners."
Senior Layne Marshall and sophomores Xavier Gallo, Mitchell Messer, Mitchell Montgomery and Brian Stroh also are looking to contribute.
"We have a real good group of guys," Schlecht said. "They've really progressed and worked their way up through the ranks of the program. No real superstars when they were young, but the growth has just been wonderful."
Davidson opened the season by winning the OHSAA Preseason Invitational, scoring 99 points to edge runner-up Cleveland St. Ignatius (106).
Tighe placed sixth (16:11.7) and LeClair was 16th (16:31.7) of 268 runners.
Last season, the Wildcats won the OCC-Central meet, scoring 29 points as Dublin Coffman (36) placed second.
"This group is more mature than last year," Schlecht said. "There's still a nice blend of all the different ages. I think you're going to see a really nice, patient team as it gets ready for the tournament season."
Boys golfers sitting
third in league
The boys golf team is third in the OCC-Central heading into the fourth and final round of the league tournament Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Darby Creek.
Davidson is 9-6 in the league, behind Upper Arlington (14-1) and Coffman (13-2) and ahead of Marysville (6-9), Central Crossing (3-12) and Westland (0-15).
The Wildcats shot a 326 in the third round Aug. 30 at Clover Valley to finish third behind UA (309) and Coffman (314).
Caleb Stimmel led the Wildcats with a 77.
Girls golfer earns
The girls golf team is tied for fourth in the OCC-Central entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Royal American.
Davidson and Canal Winchester both are 5-10 in the league, behind UA (15-0), Coffman (12-3) and New Albany (6-9) and ahead of Marysville (2-13).
The Wildcats placed fourth (351) in the third round Aug. 29 at Mentel Memorial behind UA (307), Coffman (316) and New Albany (335).
Amelia Lee was medalist with a 70.
Aug. 19 -- OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway
Sept. 2 -- Hot Summer Bash at home
Sept. 16 -- Louisville (Ky.) Trinity Invitational
Sept. 23 -- Girls: Saturday Night Lights at Centerville
Sept. 30 -- Boys: Rochester (N.Y.) McQuaid Invitational
Oct. 7 -- Boys: Portage (Mich.) Invitational; Girls: Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 14 -- OCC-Central meet at home
Below are the coming schedules for the Davidson boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- DeSales at Thorn Apple
Sept. 9 -- Grove City Invitational at Hickory Hills
Sept. 11 -- Pickerington North at Thorn Apple
Sept. 12 -- Grove City at Pinnacle
Sept. 13 -- OCC-Central at Darby Creek
Sept. 12- OCC-Central at Royal American
Sept. 13 -- Grove City at Oakhurst
Sept. 7 -- Home vs. New Albany
*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman
Sept. 7 -- At Grove City
*Sept. 12 -- At Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 7 -- At Marysville
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. New Albany
*Sept. 7 -- At Upper Arlington
*Sept. 12 -- At Central Crossing