Olentangy High School boys cross country coach Ken Whalen considers it a mixed bag that seven of his top 10 runners are back from last year.

The losses to graduation were his first, third and fourth runners, led by Anthony Sasso, who finished 45th in his third consecutive Division I state meet and now runs at High Point.

But the fact that seven runners began this season with faster times than they had last year gives Whalen hope that another successful season is in the offing.

"That means they worked hard in the offseason and take running seriously," said Whalen, who is in his third season. "They have an appreciation of what it takes to get better and when you see that kind of improvement, that's a great motivator."

Olentangy opened Aug. 26 with a dominating performance in the Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational at Kenyon College, scoring 28 points to win the four-team race ahead of runner-up and OCC-Buckeye Division foe Westerville South (48). The Braves took six of the top nine spots and 11 of the top 19.

Senior Cullen Sainey led the way with a third-place finish (17 minutes, 23.3 seconds), followed by junior Carter Schaefer (fourth, 17:24.6), sophomore Chandler Moyer (sixth, 17:30.5), junior Sam Holt (seventh, 17:34.3) and freshman Jack Dunlop (eighth, 17:44.3).

Holt and Moyer led the group of runners that began this year faster than last. The rest of that group consisted of senior Andrew Scheid, juniors Caden Ehrhardt and Afton Freeman and sophomores Ryan Slyh and Mikey Worboy.

Senior Bentley Azbell also returns from last year.

"Cullen and Carter want to get better and they want to be great leaders, and they realize that now they have to work even harder," Whalen said. "We'll be more of a pack team this year. We won't have that frontrunner like Anthony, but we should be very competitive as a group."

Olentangy's other returning state qualifier, junior Lex Brookshire of the girls team, missed the beginning of the season with an injury. Coach Dwight Dewese expected her to return by this weekend.

The girls return the majority of their lineup, with the primary exception being sophomore Piper Biziorek. She moved to Illinois this summer.

"We've battled a few injuries and really haven't seen the entire team yet," said Dewese, who is in his 15th season. "None of it is major, and a good thing for us is we have really solid leadership. This year's class is in a good place. We have a good culture going. That doesn't happen overnight. It takes kids buying in."

Brookshire finished 126th at state as a sophomore despite a stress fracture in her left foot. She was 61st as a freshman.

The girls finished third (113) in the 28-team Bengal Division of the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 26 at Pickerington North behind champion Mount Gilead (54). Scoring were senior Melina Endsley (fifth, 19:57.95), freshman Katie Balthaser (12th, 20:41.52), senior Katie Slyh (15th, 20:46.07), sophomore Megan Schlabig (39th, 21:48.99) and senior Ellie Jansen (42nd, 21:52.63).

Other expected contributors include senior Sydney Perry, junior Aleah Clow, sophomores Seville Davis and Becky Koppelman and freshmen Gracie James and Jessica Morris.

Field hockey coach
enjoying start

Field hockey coach Biz Brehm is thrilled with her team's start, especially considering Olentangy is coming off its best season.

With largely the same team as a year ago, the Braves were 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division before a Sept. 6 game against Dublin Coffman.

"The kids are playing hard and everybody is working together. The 'show up, work hard' attitude from last year and has continued," said Brehm, whose team was 9-7-1 in 2016. "If you show up and do what you are supposed to, it's going to pay off. It's fun to win. It's not fun to lose 12 games in a season. The kids are getting a taste of (winning)."

Senior forward Emma Brown, who scored 15 goals last year to tie 2017 graduate Allison Martin for the program record, had four goals through four games. Three of those came in a 3-0 win at Dublin Scioto on Aug. 30.

Senior Erika Brehm returns as starting goalkeeper. She had 28 saves in an 8-0 loss Aug. 21 at Thomas Worthington, the two-time defending state champion.

Three consecutive shutout wins followed against Orange (1-0 on Aug. 23), Hartley (2-0 on Aug. 28) and Scioto.

"She is vocal. She is all over the place back there," coach Brehm said of her younger sister. "And the defense has been solid. We have so much talent there."

Olentangy's Sept. 2 game at Granville was postponed because of bad weather.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Katurah Emery (def-ender), Kelly Griffith (for-ward/midfielder), Elise Harder (midfielder), Kenzie Morris (defender) and Emily Suchan (defender), juniors Katie Berberick (defender), Grace Cory (midfielder), Grace Ellis (forward), Olivia Langwasser (defender), Brooklyn Morris (forward), Cate Norris (defen-der), Emily Scott (defender) and Joey Van Gorder (midfielder) and sophomores Megan Arline (defender), Riley Doyle (midfielder), Rachel Kickbusch (forward), Molly Sawyer (forward/midfielder) and Karliee Severance (midfielder).

Boys soccer team
to rely on defense

Seven starters return for boys soccer coach Pat Shick, whose team will try to advance to at least a Division I district semifinal for the third time in Shick's four seasons.

Senior midfielder Nick Miller led Olentangy with nine assists last year, when the Braves went 8-9 and lost to Thomas 4-3 in the second round of the district tournament.

The Braves' other returning starters are seniors Justin Rehklau (defender), Ryan Renner (midfielder), Eli Stoner (defender) and Trent Trees (goalie) and juniors Matt Celona (forward) and Jackson Tomsic (defender).

"We have a good core of starters back, but we have a lot of first-time varsity players," said Shick, whose team was 2-1-1 before playing Upper Arlington on Sept. 5. "The strength of our program at this point is our ability to defend and be strong on the ball. We have a strong defensive core and central midfield that have been playing together for a while. We are improving every day with our offense, but our defense will run the show. We have definitely improved in our transition offense and our ability to produce and capitalize on set pieces."

Rounding out the roster are seniors Mitch Conway (midfielder) and Will Yorke (goalie), juniors Kyle Eddy (midfielder), Thadd Graham (defender), Carson Griffith (defender), Alec Heidl (forward/midfielder), Mateo Montoya (midfielder), Ryan Skinner (midfielder), James Switz (forward) and Eric Ward (midfielder) and sophomores Dominic Antronica (midfielder), Drew Beck (forward), Christian Bowens (midfielder), Drew Clement (forward), Marc Gil (defender) and Vik Hudson (defender/midfielder).

Boys golfers hope
to maintain standing

The boys golf team enters the fourth and final round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Darby Creek in second place, well behind first-place Liberty but with two teams in hot pursuit.

Bryce Reed's round of 75 led the Braves to a team score of 313 in the third round Aug. 30 at Apple Valley, behind Liberty (295) and ahead of Westerville Central (318), Orange (329), Westerville North (369) and South (422).

Also scoring for Olentangy were Trey Wilson (78), Luke Boerner (80) and Cameron Casto (80).

The Braves are 10-5 in the league, behind Liberty (15-0) and ahead of Central (9-6), Orange (8-7), North (3-12) and South (0-15).

Girls golf team
fourth in league

The girls golf team is fourth in the OCC-Buckeye entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Westchester.

Senior Maddie Gwinn's 95 led Olentangy to fourth place (395) in the third round Aug. 29 at Cooks Creek behind Orange (287), Liberty (312) and Central (341) and ahead of North (470) and South (488).

Also scoring for the Braves were Lauren Sommerfeld (96), Sam Horton (97) and Sierra Cardi (107).

Olentangy is 6-9 in the OCC-Buckeye, behind Orange (14-1), Liberty (13-2) and Central (9-6) and ahead of North (3-12) and South (0-15).

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 26 -- Boys: Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational at Kenyon College; Girls: Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North

Sept. 2 -- Granville Invitational at Bryn Du Mansion

Sept. 9 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 16 -- Galion Festival at Amann's Reservoir Park

Sept. 30 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club

Oct. 7 -- Hilliard Darby Dash

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

FIELD HOCKEY

*Aug. 21 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Aug. 23 -- at Olentangy Orange

Aug. 28 -- vs. Hartley

*Aug. 30 -- at Dublin Scioto

Sept. 2 -- at Granville

*Sept. 6 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*Sept. 11 -- at Upper Arlington

*Sept. 18 -- at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 20 -- vs. Lancaster

Sept. 23 -- vs. McMurray (Pa.) Peters Township

*Sept. 25 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Sept. 27 -- at New Albany

Oct. 4 -- vs. Hilliard Lynx

Oct. 7 -- vs. Columbus School for Girls

Oct. 9 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

Oct. 11 -- at Bexley

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

Aug. 24 -- vs. Delaware

Aug. 29 -- at Dublin Coffman

Aug. 31 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

Sept. 5 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*Sept. 12 -- at Westerville South

Sept. 14 -- at Hilliard Darby

*Sept. 19 -- vs. Westerville North

Sept. 21 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*Sept. 26 -- at Westerville Central

Sept. 28 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Oct. 3 -- at Olentangy Orange

Oct. 5 -- at Hilliard Davidson

Oct. 7 -- vs. Gahanna

*Oct. 10 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty

Oct. 12 -- vs. Big Walnut

*League contest

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

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 9 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek

GIRLS GOLF

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

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Westchester

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 7 -- At New Albany

*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Westerville South

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Liberty

Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Westerville North

*Sept. 12 -- At Westerville Central

*League contest