A healthy Nathan Ware has returned to lead the Westerville South High School boys cross country team.
Ware, a senior, missed the latter part of last season with ankle and Achilles injuries.
Coach Jimmy Gaul, who is in his 11th season, said Ware has returned to full strength and is hoping for a strong campaign.
"It's nice to have him back, and more importantly, it's just nice to see him enjoying running again and running carefree and not being so worried about everything," Gaul said. "He never raced in track. He just trained with us and tried to use it as his rehab to get ready for this summer and this season."
As a sophomore, Ware finished 52nd (16 minutes, 52.4 seconds) in the Division I regional meet and recorded the program's fastest time of the season, 16:11.78, at district.
"When he's fully healthy, he showed what he could do as a sophomore," Gaul said. "For him, for us and for his teammates when he's healthy in the front of the race that brings a whole new level of confidence to the rest of the varsity guys."
Junior Cole Koehler was 55th (17:40.51) at district last year and has been the No. 2 runner so far this season.
"This is like a second family for me," Koehler said. "It's a stress relief to come here after a long school day and not worry about that, running with people I love to be around and just having a good time."
Also back are seniors Malachi Rispress and Jack Parker, who have been the No. 3 and No. 4 runners, respectively. Rispress finished 50th (17:38.99) at district last year to lead South.
Sophomore Isaac Combs, senior Grant Gannon and sophomore Ryan de Nijs have rounded out the top seven, while senior Alexander Baumann and sophomore Anthony Vilardo also are looking to contribute.
"Competition is great for training when you have a group that you can work with and you're working towards a common goal, which is to make the team better," Gaul said. "It really helps on Saturdays when you're able to race with guys that -- you want to beat them -- but they're your teammates and you push yourselves and you push each other to perform at the best of your ability."
The Wildcats opened Aug. 26 by finishing second (49) behind Olentangy (28) in the seven-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational. Ware was second (17:16.1), Koehler was fifth (17:30.4), Rispress was 10th (17:50.7) and Parker was 17th (18:20.9) in a field of 154 runners.
Last season, South finished fifth (141) in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet behind champion Olentangy Orange (29).
"We know we have our work cut out for us (in the league)," Gaul said. "We might not win; we might end up sixth because of the level of competition in our conference. We're OK with that as long as we've done everything we can to put our best effort on the line that day."
A talented group of underclassmen has been leading the girls cross country team.
Freshman Izzie Kotik has emerged as the top runner, finishing seventh (21:59.2) of 65 runners at Mount Vernon as South was second (53) of four teams behind champion Chillicothe (34).
Junior Ellie Bouton was eighth (22:14.6), freshman Taylor Hughes was 10th (23:30.1) and junior Tasha Carr was 11th (23:44.5).
Senior Trinity Trimble rounds out the top five. Sophomore Karina Deere, who was a top runner late last season, also should be in the mix.
Freshmen Abigail Williams and Marley Jackson and senior Noelle Jackson complete the top nine.
"The girls have a nice influx of freshman talent this year," Gaul said. "I'm pretty excited about that.
"We have great upperclassman leadership. We have great role models and great young women in our junior and senior classes."
Taylor earns medalist
honors in OCC event
Troy Taylor carded a 68 to earn medalist honors for the boys golf team in the third round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 30 at Apple Valley.
South finished sixth (422) behind first-place Liberty (295) and was sixth (0-15) in the league heading into the final round Wednesday, Sept. 13 at Westchester. Liberty leads at 15-0.
Girls golfers prepare
for final round
The girls golf team will compete in the final round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Westchester.
The Wildcats finished sixth (488) in the third round Aug. 29 at Cooks Creek behind first-place Orange (287). Emma Davidson led South with a 103.
Aug. 26 -- Mount Vernon Kiwanis John Fair Invitational
Sept. 2 -- Westerville North Classic
Sept. 9 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
Sept. 16 -- Bobcat Invitational at Grandview
Sept. 23 -- Pickerington Central Invitational
Sept. 30 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Oct. 7 -- Johnstown Harrier Showdown at Sportsman Club
Oct. 14 -- OCC-Buckeye meet at Hilliard Davidson
Below are the coming schedules for the South boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- Westerville Central at Medallion
Sept. 9 -- Hickory Hills Invitational at Hickory Hills
Sept. 11 -- DeSales at Champions
Sept. 13 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Buckeye at Westchester
Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 7 -- At Central Crossing
*Sept. 12 -- At Olentangy
*Sept. 7 -- At Central
Sept. 13 -- At Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 7 -- At Olentangy Liberty
Sept. 9 -- At Galion Northmor
*Sept. 12 -- At Olentangy Orange