With three of his top seven runners back from last year, Pickerington High School North girls cross country coach Jim Langenderfer stopped short of saying the Panthers' fortunes would mirror those of expected top runner Skylar Briggs.

Langenderfer, however, is eager for Briggs to finish her prep career with a strong campaign after injuries cost her most of her junior year in both cross country and track and field.

Briggs began the year Aug. 26 by finishing 32nd (20 minutes, 45.55 seconds) in the Pickerington Classic at home, leading North to 11th place (246 points) in the 12-team Panther Division behind champion Olentangy Liberty (54).

Briggs was hampered by a hip injury toward the end of last season. She then missed all but one race in track season last spring after breaking her right foot last winter.

"She has basically missed a year of running and she will have to work herself back into running shape. You can still see her speed," said Langenderfer, who is in his 15th season. "She is an athlete, so she will bounce back. In a month, she should be a lot faster."

Also scoring for the Panthers Aug. 26 were sophomore Brianna Bowden (34th, 20:47.55), junior Courtney Chabot (56th, 21:32.51), freshman Emily Harness (66th, 21:51.64) and junior Claire Touvell (81st, 22:19.7).

Behind them was a group consisting of juniors Krysten Emswiler and Jordan Wilson, sophomore Emma Vah and freshmen Annabel Malone, Elizabeth Martin and Audrey Monge.

"We had a lot of good freshmen coming in. Bri Bowden was two minutes faster (Aug. 26) than her time last year. That's a lot of strength showing," Langenderfer said. "Our freshmen and sophomores look good. Our senior class gives us the leadership and experience. It's a good mix of people.

"We always want to be stronger. Stronger equates to faster. It depends on how summers go. If our girls are very busy over the summer, it's hard for them to run as much as they should or want. Now, they're very busy with school and it comes down to the same thing. It's a sport where like in golf, where you can always get a stroke better; here, you can always get a second faster. It's the effort as well as ability."

The Panthers finished sixth (157) of 13 teams in the Division I race of the Westerville North Classic on Sept. 2. Briggs was 16th (21:14.3).

North finished third (79) in last year's OCC-Ohio Division meet behind champion Gahanna (26), then fell one spot shy of the Division I regional meet by placing sixth at district.

Briggs, Duvall return
to lead boys runners

Six of the boys cross country team's top seven runners from a year ago return, including both of its Division I state qualifiers in senior Ashwin Briggs and sophomore Matt Duvall, but 15th-year coach Tim Starkey said he does not expect the lineup to fluctuate much.

"Our order is pretty fixed," Starkey said.

"Ashwin will be leading our squad. He brings the race experience. Matt is tapping into his potential and getting faster every week. He has big things in store. (Sophomore) Harper (Moore) has been fantastic with his talent and he is only getting better. Same with (junior) Jake Prestileo. They have experience on their side."

Briggs finished 51st at state last year, while Duvall was 79th.

In the Pickerington Classic, Briggs finished third (15:46.38) and Duvall was seventh (15:54.16) to lead North, which finished first (85) in the 12-team Panther Division ahead of runner-up Thomas Worthington (100). Also scoring were Moore (11th, 16:16.11), Prestileo (23rd, 17:05.66) and senior Kevin Mason (41st, 17:30.67).

Briggs trimmed almost 10 seconds from his season-opening time to win the 16-team Ashland Invitational on Sept. 2, leading North to 68 points and the team title ahead of runner-up Rocky River (111).

Starkey expects a mix of veteran and younger runners to follow them, including seniors Ethan Cale and Nate Rini, sophomores Spencer Moledor, Aaron Moraine and Daniel Newman and freshman Ben Dinsmore.

"We knew we had a great group of guys coming into this season," Starkey said.

"Our freshmen last year were inexperienced, but now they have it figured out and they have a lot of talent. I am pleased with them. They had great summer training.

"They are better than where I thought they'd be, and I think they have yet to see what they really can do."

North finished fourth (78) in the OCC-Ohio meet last year behind Gahanna and Pickerington Central, both of which scored 56 points.

The Lions edged the Tigers for the league title on the sixth-runner tiebreaker.

Girls golf team
retakes league lead

The girls golf team enters the fourth and final round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Royal American in position to win its fifth league championship in six years.

Caitlyn Tasney's 78 in the third round Aug. 29 at Westchester led North (330), which finished ahead of Gahanna (333), Central and Grove City (both 386), Big Walnut (393) and Lancaster (410).

Also scoring for the Panthers were Cassie Tasney (80), Ally Perkins (82) and Zhanner Davis (90).

North is 12-1 in the league, ahead of Gahanna (11-2), Grove City (6-7), Central (5-8), Big Walnut (1-12) and Lancaster (0-5).

The Panthers won four consecutive OCC-Ohio championships from 2012-15 before Upper Arlington, which now is in the OCC-Central, snapped that streak last year.

Boys golfers' title
streak in jeopardy

A fourth-place finish in the third round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Aug. 30 at Clover Valley left the boys golf team in third place in the league as it seeks its 13th consecutive league championship.

Josh Tasney shot a 75 to share medalist honors with Grove City's Jeremiah Bare and lead North (328), which finished behind Grove City (319), Gahanna (324) and Central (325) and ahead of Lancaster (366) and Reynoldsburg (374).

Tasney was followed by Jack Kowalczyk (78), Danny Heitmeyer (84), Jake Chadwick (91) and Danny Corrigan (91).

North is 10-5 in the OCC-Ohio entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Turnberry, behind Gahanna (12-3) and Grove City (11-4) and ahead of Central (9-6), Lancaster (3-12) and Reynoldsburg (0-15).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 26 -- Pickerington Classic at home

Sept. 2 -- Boys: Ashland Invitational; Girls: Westerville North Classic

Sept. 9 -- Boys: Tiffin Cross Country Carnival; Girls: Wooster Invitational

Sept. 16 -- Boys: Galion Cross Country Festival at Amann's Reservoir; Girls: Cedarville Invitational

Sept. 23 -- Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central

Sept. 30 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley and Panther Invitational at home

Oct. 7 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 14 -- OCC-Ohio at Lancaster

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

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 7 -- Columbus Academy and Granville at Columbus Country Club

Sept. 9 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside

Sept. 11 -- Gdovin Memorial Invitational at Zanesville Country Club

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 7 -- Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington at Blackhawk

Sept. 9 -- No Name Invitational at Cooks Creek

Sept. 11 -- Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Watterson at Airport

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 7- Home vs. Grove City

Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Ursuline Academy and Mason

Sept. 12 -- At Columbus School for Girls

Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Watterson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Gahanna

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Lancaster

*League contest