The McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial was a memorable event for Peyton Baker, a junior on the Groveport Madison High School boys cross country team.

Entering the meet, Baker was hoping to finish among the top 25 runners in the Division I race.

"I was trying to stay with some of the frontrunners and I'm not sure who they were," Baker said. "I couldn't do it and then I tried to stay with (Grove City's Evan Whitaker), but after awhile, he lost me. So I was disappointed when I crossed the finish line.

"My coach came up and hugged me and at first I thought maybe he felt sorry for me and it was a consolation hug, but he was excited. So I looked up and saw the times and was immediately happy."

Although Baker placed 34th, his time of 16 minutes, 47.8 seconds was close to the program record of 16:46, set by 2007 graduate Alex Moore in the 2006 Division I state meet. Whitaker finished 11th (16:16.8).

Moore is now an assistant coach for the Cruisers.

"He is so supportive and he's pushing me and wanting me to break his record," Baker said. "I have a year and a half to break the record. I want to break the record by so much that it'll last a long, long time. It would mean a lot to have my name at the top of the record board.

"I can tell you one thing: If I get the record, I don't think I will be encouraging anyone to break it. At least, I can't see myself doing that at this point in my life. That shows you how cool and supportive (Moore) is."

Baker's performance at Watkins Memorial came four days after he finished first (17:58.6) in the Hornet Invitational at Licking Heights.

"Peyton is super competitive and motivated to reach the regional race this year," coach Vincent Gay said. "He is a very coachable kid and has responded very well to the program I am running at Groveport. As the season progresses, we only expect faster times and stronger finishes from Peyton."

Baker said the conditions were right at Watkins Memorial.

"It was a clean, dry course, which we hadn't had in a while," he said. "It was good because I needed a race like that. I hadn't run a fast race like that for a while, and it gives me confidence going forward. I'd like to get to the low 16s by the end of this year."

At Watkins Memorial, the Cruisers finished 28th (827 points) of 32 teams, behind champion Olentangy Liberty (93), as 218 runners competed. Also participating for Groveport were Eli Jackson (188th, 19:17), Damani Lane (197th, 19:47.8), Jason Pinkston (199th, 19:48.6) and Kahari Davis (214th, 21:02.3).

"The progress of the boys team has been quite amazing," Gay said. "We are a very young team, with three freshmen on varsity. At Watkins, each boy surpassed the goal we set for them and most blew past their personal records by over a minute. They are very motivated and excited to begin competing in team races. Two freshmen, Eli Jackson and Jason Pinkston, have flourished under the program and will be ones to watch in future years."

The girls team placed 27th (727) of 28 teams at Watkins Memorial, behind champion Liberty (80). Victoria Williams finished 112th (22:01.7) of 186 runners to lead the Cruisers, followed by Melanie Torres (117th, 22:09.8), Cherub Clarke (163rd, 24:08.5), Brianna Chan (167th, 24:23.8) and Gracia Musa (181st, 26:00).

"The girls team has taken steps in the right direction," Gay said. "Victoria and Melanie have repeatedly beaten their personal records. I am very pleased with every girl. They have all been working hard toward improving overall and gaining the confidence that they can compete with the strong competition."

Groveport competed in the six-team Shin Splint Invitational on Sept. 16 at Westland. The boys team finished third (70) behind champion Whetstone (20), as Baker was runner-up (17:43.7) and Thomas Gullatt finished 14th (19:29).

The girls team placed second (32) behind Whetstone (26), as Torres finished first (21:41.1) of 26 runners and Clarke placed fifth (25:09.2).

Boys soccer team
falls for first time

The boys soccer team lost for the first time this season when it fell to host New Albany 2-1 in an OCC-Capital Division game on Sept. 14.

The contest was moved up from Sept. 26 because of a scheduling conflict.

"Unfortunately, we played without two of our key guys," coach Ivan Landaverde said. "Luis Hernandez, a starting center back, was out with the flu, and center midfielder Luke Parsons left 10 minutes into the game with an injury."

Groveport trailed 1-0 at halftime and was down 2-0 before Tahj Vandyck scored.

The Cruisers defeated Licking Heights 4-1 on Sept. 16 and were 5-1-2 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing Canal Winchester on Sept. 19.

"I'm very happy with the way we played in the first six games, although the two ties were annoying because we didn't take advantage of our scoring opportunities," said Landaverde, whose team tied Reynoldsburg at 1 on Aug. 22 and Mount Vernon at 1 on Sept. 7. "We're getting better up top, getting closer to where we want to be. Our defense is our strength. We've got four guys who really play together and click well in the back, and that has helped (goalkeeper) Eddie Monroy."

In addition to Hernandez, the back row includes center back Jevon Diawara and outside backs Miles Mason and Melvin Escamilla.

"Our midfielders, Luke Parsons and Kelvin Kollie, are controlling the game and are the core to our team," Landaverde said. "They are the motor to the offense and the front line of the defense. Austin Snyder's versatility helps a great bunch. We can use him at center midfield or up top."

The Cruisers defeated Franklin Heights 8-0 in their league opener Sept. 7, as Vandyck and Abou Diack both scored two goals and Mason, Parsons, Snyder and Diawara each scored one.

Against Licking Heights, Vandyck scored two goals and Caleb Daley and Jeffrey Asamoah each scored one.

Football team getting
set to face Comets

The football team will close out the non-league portion of its schedule Friday, Sept. 22, at Central Crossing.

The Cruisers are still seeking their first win after falling to 0-4 with a 33-7 loss to Pickerington Central on Sept. 15, while Central Crossing enters the game 1-3 after losing to Reynoldsburg 21-7 the same night.

"They've played some real tough competition and I know their coach (Trevor White) will get them turned around," coach Bryan Schoonover said of the Comets.

"He's in his first year there. He's a Groveport guy and a buddy of mine.

"From what I've seen, their defense is very fundamentally sound and they use a lot of formations and different looks on offense. We will have to make sure we're lining up in the right positions against all of their formations."

Reynoldsburg scored a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter and led 21-7 at halftime. Central Crossing surrendered 393 total yards.

Quarterback Ben Bohne scored on a 1-yard run for the Comets, who defeated Grove City 49-48 on Sept. 8.

In that game, Bohne was 9-for-19 passing for 244 yards and a touchdown, kicked three extra points and threw for two two-point conversions as the Comets recorded their largest comeback in program history after trailing 35-20 in the third quarter. Wide receiver Owen Lakso caught five passes for 157 yards in the contest, and running back Pierre France had touchdown runs of 5, 6, 16 and 6 yards.

Groveport trailed Pickerington Central 27-0 at halftime and averted the shutout when defensive lineman Deahmi Guinn returned a fumble 41 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

"Our kids gave great effort and we're getting better week by week," Schoonover said. "Unfortunately, we've lost four players for the season, and possibly a fifth. In addition to (receiver) Izayah Aekins, we lost (defensive end) Darrell Smoot and maybe (quarterback) Colin Kerns.

"On defense, Deahmi Guinn and (nose guard) Tykel Hancock-Anderson are playing well, and on offense, (running back) Wayne Blackshear and (tackle) Te-Rah Edwards are doing a good job for us."

Nanthavong earns
first-team all-league

Preston Nanthavong of the boys golf team earned first-team all-OCC-Capital honors after finishing the four-round league tournament with the fifth-best average.

Nanthavong shot 81 in the final round Sept. 13 at Clover Valley to finish with an 80.3 average. He was the only Cruiser to compete in the fourth round.

New Albany (20-0) won the OCC-Capital title, ahead of Big Walnut (16-4), Canal Winchester (12-8) and Newark (8-12). Groveport and Franklin Heights did not have team scores in any of the rounds.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 23 -- Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster

Sept. 27 -- Walnut Ridge Invitational

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 27 -- Franklin Heights at The Links at Groveport

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Whitehall

Sept. 23 -- At Grove City

*Sept. 26 -- At New Albany

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 23 -- At Columbus School for Girls

*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. New Albany

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 27 -- At Hamilton Township

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Lancaster

*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 25-15, 25-15, 25-14 on Sept. 5.

*League contest