Grove City High School cross country coach Joe Dollins calls this year's boys and girls teams the deepest he's led in his five seasons.
With a blend of talented upperclassmen and the addition of freshmen with potential, Dollins is expecting a strong season.
"It's encouraging with 19 boys and 25 girls," Dollins said. "We have 13 seniors helping to lead practices and they're working hard every day, so this season is very promising with the veterans who ran last year and we have some new raw athletes that with each practice and race are getting better and faster, so I'm very excited."
Senior Evan Whitaker again is expected to lead the boys team as the No. 1 runner, but Dollins said a battle has developed for the remaining six starting spots.
Whitaker led the Greyhounds in the Division I, district 3 meet last season, finishing 43rd in 17 minutes, 36.68 seconds.
"If (Whitaker) stays healthy and he's practicing hard and racing smart, he has the potential to qualify for regional and his ultimate goal is to qualify for state," Dollins said. "He's running really well."
Whitaker is looking forward to putting together a strong final season.
"We're just a really good hard-working group of guys," he said. "I love seeing my teammates do well, as well as I like seeing myself do well. The team doing better motivates me to work hard because everyone is working harder and we're all building off each other. It's a great team effort this year."
Four runners are competing for the No. 2 spot, including senior E.J. Rondez, a transfer from Westland who finished 71st (18:19.45) in the district 2 meet last season.
"He's highly competitive," Dollins said. "I was very welcoming when he enrolled at the school."
Also pursuing the No. 2 spot are juniors Jared Ellis and Adam Meister and sophomore Zach Elliott.
Junior Nick Bruce, sophomores Trey Harkins and Ben Rutledge and freshman Greg-ory Kingsbury also are in the mix for a starting spot.
Grove City's early season schedule included competing in the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 26 at Pickerington North. Whitaker finished third of 405 runners in 16:54.22 and Elliott was 17th in 17:40.95 as Grove City finished seventh (214) of 27 teams behind champion and OCC-Ohio Division rival Gahanna (38).
Last season, the Greyhounds finished sixth (159) in the league meet behind champion Gahanna (56).
"It's a tough league," Dollins said. "It's almost tougher than our district race. We have some of the best teams not only in central Ohio, but in the state of Ohio. One of our team goals is to finish in the top three at the OCC (meet) and that's an obtainable goal if everybody stays healthy, keeps working hard in practice and keep building on the race experience."
Girls cross country
team has new look
The girls cross country team features a deep roster, but it lost a key member to graduation in four-year competitor Sydney Smith, who now is running at Otterbein.
Senior Maylene Renninger and sophomore Lindsay Donaldson have been competing for the top spot. Both ran at district last season, with Renninger placing 46th (21:08.38) and Donaldson finishing 72nd (22:34.07).
"Maylene and Lindsay are battling for that No. 1 (spot). They go back and forth," Dollins said.
Junior returnee Sumer McWilliams has been in the top three early in the season with senior returnee Ella Harris running in the No. 4 spot.
Also looking for a starting spot are senior Kaitlin Osterman, junior Alyssa Fuchs, sophomore Lauren Glass and freshman Laney Hoyt. Fuchs also competed at district last season.
"I love competition," Dollins said. "It keeps the kids motivated and it makes practices a little more fun and enjoyable, and that's why with 25 girls, I'm ecstatic as a coach that the numbers are up. My first year, we had 23 total runners (between the boys and girls teams)."
Grove City finished 14th (391) in the 28-team Pickerington Classic behind champion Mount Gilead (54). Renninger was 29th (21:32.75) and Donaldson was 54th (22:05.18) of 405 runners.
Boys golf team takes
first in OCC event
The boys golf team is looking to build on finishing first in the third round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 30 at Clover Valley.
The Greyhounds shot 319 to finish ahead of Gahanna (324), Pickerington Central (325), Pickerington North (328), Lancaster (366) and Reynoldsburg (374).
Jeremiah Bane shot 75 to share medalist honors with North's Josh Tasney. Nick Erwin and Ian Johnston each shot 80.
Grove City is second (11-4) in the league behind Gahanna (12-3) heading into the final round Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Turnberry.
"We have been a little up and down in terms of team scores, but have played really well in the OCC events," coach Eric Joreski said. "Every year our goal is to win a league title and we have put ourselves in position to have a shot at the league title. The guys continue to work hard and they are really consistent in their practice habits."
Girls golf team
The girls golf team finished fourth (386) behind first-place Pickerington North (330) in the third round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 29 at Westchester.
Lizzie Saur led the Greyhounds with an 86 and Abby Jones had a 90.
The final round will be played Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Mentel Memorial. Grove City is third (6-7) behind North (12-1) and Gahanna (11-2).
Aug. 21 -- New Albany Classic
Aug. 26 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 30 -- Canal Winchester Invitational
Sept. 2 -- Hoka One One Postal Nationals at Westland
Sept. 9 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
Sept. 30 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Oct. 7 -- Hilliard Darby Dash
Oct. 14 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Lancaster
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- Dublin Scioto at Glenross
Sept. 9 -- Hickory Hills Invitational at Hickory Hills
Sept. 12 -- Hilliard Davidson at Pinnacle
Sept. 13 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry
Sept. 7 -- Westerville South at Oakhurst
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 13 -- Davidson and Marysville at Oakhurst
Sept. 7 -- At Westland
*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Lancaster
Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Davidson
*Sept. 12 -- At Lancaster
*Sept. 7 -- At Pickerington North
Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Watkins Mem-orial
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby
*Sept. 7 -- At Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 12 -- At Gahanna