Runners for the Westerville North High School boys and girls cross country teams are dropping time, leaving their coaches wondering how much lower their athletes can go.

Girls coach Johnny Jackson said many of his competitors worked hard over the summer and started in midseason form. Boys coach Dave Weaner also has seen significant improvements by his runners.

"We had a good number of girls meet during the summer and go off on some runs, and I think that's helping us now," said Jackson, who is in his eighth season. "We have a pretty solid seven right now. We are young and we have some good senior leaders. They listen well and are a group of go-getters."

The girls opened Aug. 26 by finishing sixth (246 points) behind champion Mount Gilead (54) in the Bengal Division of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North.

Sophomore Samantha Dages led the way by placing 30th in 21 minutes, 33.65 seconds, followed by junior Erin Mobley (37th, 21:48.13), sophomore Grace Blanchong (48th, 21:58.54), senior Emily Bueter (70th, 22:32.85), sophomore Emma Fury (73rd, 22:35.9), junior Eva Bernhardt (75th, 22:40.23) and sophomore Bryce Gabelman (108th, 23:22.7).

Mobley qualified for the Division I district meet last fall and finished 68th (21:24.32). She led the Warriors by placing 23rd (21:33.6) in the Westerville North Classic on Sept. 2.

Blanchong (26th, 21:39.0) and Dages (30th, 21:52.0) were next for the Warriors, who finished fifth (155) behind champion Upper Arlington (39). Also competing were Bueter (37th, 22:14.1), Bernhardt (29th, 22:19.2), Fury (41st, 22:24.4) and junior Christina Prokop (44th, 22:27.4).

"It's very competitive in practice between our top runners," Jackson said. "They push each other and won't give an inch."

The boys also have made a leap since last fall, according to Weaner, who is in his 15th season.

Led by senior Austin Ebbrecht (23rd, 17:45.93), the Warriors were 13th (374) in the Bengal Division at Pickerington North behind champion Gahanna (38).

Freshman Isaiah Hutcherson (78th, 18:43.98) was next, followed by sophomore Dillon Lauer (93rd, 18:57.95), senior Carter Hudnell (106th, 19:15.58), freshman Seth Derstine (110th, 19:21.12), senior Will Steele (126th, 19:32.08) and sophomore Ryan Iarussi (149th, 19:51.17).

"Austin has been our top runner, but four of our top five runners had their best times at Pickerington," Weaner said. "When you start the season with your best time, it gives you hope for what they might be able to do."

In the home meet, the Warriors were eighth (212) behind champion Liberty (34). Ebbrecht (38th, 18:33.54) again led the way, followed by Hutcherson (45th, 18:57.41), Lauer (48th, 18:59.91), Steele (49th, 19:00.11), Derstine (57th, 19:29.05), Hudnell (61st, 19:32.17) and senior Drew Mantenieks (65th, 19:40.32).

"We have some freshmen and sophomores doing well for us despite being in their first year of running," Weaner said. "We have good balance with three seniors and a couple of sophomores and a couple more freshmen. Our seniors are doing a great job of showing the ropes to the younger kids."

Girls volleyball team
earns early victories

The girls volleyball team picked up its first win in its second match, pleasing second-year coach Dylan Johnson.

The Warriors defeated Marysville 28-26, 25-19, 25-20 on Aug. 24 and were 3-4 after defeating Central Crossing 25-19, 25-5 and Newark 21-25, 25-14, 27-25 on Sept. 2. Last season, they lost their first nine matches.

"Getting that (first) win was huge for us," said Johnson, whose team finished 5-17 last fall. "We didn't get our first win until three weeks into the season last year and (Marys-ville) beat us in four games (25-22, 25-19, 17-25, 25-13)."

The Warriors return three starters in senior outside hitters Claire Dawson and Maddie Szawranskyj (second-team all-league) and sophomore middle blocker Clarke Gilchrist.

Other starters this season are senior setter Chrissy Fite, junior middle blocker Cameron Calhoun, sophomore libero Ameena Freeman and sophomore right-side hitter Lily Miller.

"We are running a 5-1 offense with Chrissy as the setter," said Johnson, whose team opens OCC-Buckeye Division play Tuesday, Sept. 5, at home against Westerville Central. "We're using our full arsenal this year and we're better at ball control."

Two starters left the program. Sophomore middle blocker Gabby Hutcherson transferred to Westerville South, and sophomore setter Grace Kilma is focusing on crew.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Maddy Hinz (defensive specialist), Mackenzie Lykins (right-side hitter) and Alice Stevenson (right-side hitter) and sophomore Lynn Burton (setter).

"We were super-young last year so now we have more experience," Johnson said. "The biggest thing we need right now is consistency. We'll play well for a while and then lose some focus. We want to keep from doing that."

Southibounnorath leads
boys golf team in OCC

Pierre Southibounnorath of the boys golf team was runner-up in the third round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 30 at Apple Valley.

The junior shot 70 to finish behind South's Troy Taylor (68). He is tied for fifth (76.33) in league average.

The Warriors are fifth (3-12) behind first-place Liberty (15-0) entering the final round Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Darby Creek.

In the third round, North (369) was fifth behind the first-place Patriots (295). Also competing were Josh Brown (83), Preston McCallum (103) and Parker Degler (113).

Girls golfers stand
fifth in league

Entering the final round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Westchester, the

girls golf team was fifth (3-12) behind first-place Olentangy Orange (14-1).

In the third round Aug. 29 at Cooks Creek, the Warriors finished fifth (470) behind first-place Orange (287) as Paige Miller led with a 103.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 26 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North

Sept. 2 -- Westerville North Classic

Sept. 16 -- Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park

Sept. 23 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster

Sept. 30 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley

Oct. 7 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 14 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 22 -- vs. New Albany

Aug. 24 -- at Marysville

Aug. 26 -- at Marion Harding

Aug. 29 -- at Upper Arlington

Aug. 31 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

Sept. 2 -- vs. Central Crossing and Newark

*Sept. 5 -- vs. Westerville Central

*Sept. 7 -- at Olentangy

Sept. 9 -- vs. Licking Heights and Reynoldsburg

*Sept. 12 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

*Sept. 14 -- at Westerville South

*Sept. 19 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

Sept. 21 -- at Franklin Heights

Sept. 23 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Sept. 26 -- at Westerville Central

*Sept. 28 -- vs. Olentangy

*Oct. 3 -- at Olentangy Liberty

*Oct. 5 -- vs. Westerville South

*Oct. 10 -- at Olentangy Orange

Oct. 12 -- at Delaware

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the North boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 7 -- Westerville Central and Westerville South at Medallion

Sept. 12 -- Reynoldsburg at Blackhawk

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Westchester

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 7 -- At Thomas Worthington

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Central

GIRLS SOCCER

*Sept. 11 -- At Central

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange

Sept. 9 -- Big Walnut Doubles Classic

Sept. 11 -- At Delaware

Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Newark

*League contest