Daniella Santos has been on a pretty good run recently for the Hilliard Darby High School cross country team.

The sophomore ran the second-fastest time in program history (18 minutes, 19.1 seconds) to place second in the Division I race in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial and followed that with a third-place finish (18:36.1) in the Galion Cross Country Festival on Sept. 16 at Amann's Reservoir Park.

"I came out of the McGowan with a lot of confidence because I wasn't expecting to place that well or run that type of time, although it is my favorite race and favorite course," Santos said. "I was surprised. But I knew I had to get out well because it gets congested and there's not much room to make a move in the middle of the race and you don't want to get caught behind.

"So the goal is to stay with the frontrunners as long as you can, and I did that. I knew I placed well, but I didn't get the official time until I was back in our camp. Everyone was congratulating me. It was exciting."

Santos' time in the McGowan Invitational is 21.1 seconds off the program record of 17:58, set by Erika Alpeter in 2007.

"Daniella ran a great race and is having a great season," coach Jon Agriesti said. "She has a lot of ability and narrowly missed advancing to state last year."

Santos said she learned a lot in the McGowan Invitational.

"I realize I can go out with the frontrunners and take the risk of trying to hold on," she said. "Before, I had some concern that if I went out too fast, I could end up fading and trying to hang on. But I think now that's a risk that's worth taking. If I have to drop off the pace, I'll just do the best I can.

"I'd really like to break the record this year, but my first goal is to just qualify for state."

The Panthers placed eighth (247 points) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (80) in the 28-team McGowan Invitational and were seventh (217) of 26 teams in the Galion Cross Country Festival behind champion Granville (56).

"Our performances continue to get better," Agriesti said. "(The McGowan Invitational) was the first meet that we ran where we did not face tough state-level competition in smaller fields. Anita Perie and Abby Cannon continue to improve, dropping significant times. Anita ran her PR (19:34.6) at Watkins and Abby ran her season-best by over 50 seconds (20:11.7)."

In the Galion Cross Country Festival, Perie finished 12th (19:42.2) and Cannon was 28th (20:22). They were followed by Erin Cowen (85th, 21:58.1) and Madison Murphy (92nd, 22:10.8).

"We have been fighting illness and some training injuries, but we are on track to be where we want to be in the postseason," Agriesti said. "Erin Cowen, Madison Murphy and Jane Vulic all ran very good races at Watkins Memorial. Our Nos. 4-7 are coming together and beginning to race more consistently. We will work on closing the gap from (Nos.) 3-4, which will be a big battle this season."

Boys runners
show improvement

The boys cross country team finished 18th (459) in a 37-team field in the Galion Cross Country Festival, led by Dylan Newport, who finished 58th of 254 runners in 17:14.2.

He was followed by Belaji Kurapati (71st, 17:25.3), Sean Carney (80th, 17:29.4), Josh Baldridge (116th, 17:54.6), Colin Wagner (134th, 18:11.1), Eric Lowery (136th, 18:11.2) and Owen Martin (159th, 18:27.2).

"Without a true frontrunner, essentially our Nos. 1-7 serve as a pack-scoring mentality," coach Matthew Fox said. "Dylan is on track, but still needs to develop that next-level type of running mentality. He and Owen are both highly capable runners who I believe will steadily move themselves closer and closer to the front as the season goes on, building confidence along the way."

Newport (27th, 16:43.6) and Martin (46th, 16:58.9) were strong in the McGowan Invitational, in which the Panthers placed 10th (298) behind champion Liberty (93) in the 32-team Division I race.

"I was pleased with the team overall at Watkins because we had an average improvement of 25 seconds from the meet the week before," Fox said. "We are starting to create depth, and the younger runners are learning to run the 5K. At this point of the season, the goal is to build more than it is to run fast, so it's nice to see times dropping."

Volleyball team
stepping up

The girls volleyball team had won three consecutive matches and was 7-3 overall and 5-2 in OCC-Cardinal Division ahead of a Sept. 19 match at Worthington Kilbourne, which was 11-3 overall and 7-0 in the league.

"In the past week or so, we have really made some strides," coach Joe Ross said. "Our players are starting to lock into their roles and it's making our entire team play better. Our serve receive has really been passing well, led by seniors Cambron Hampton, Abbey Ansel and Maddy Smith. They have played a lot of ball together and have really accepted the challenge of getting our offense in motion."

The Panthers defeated Bradley 25-18, 26-24, 17-25, 25-15 on Sept. 12 and Delaware 26-24, 18-25, 25-20, 25-19 on Sept. 14 in league matches.

"Our record will be what it will be," Ross said. "I am most happy about our schedule. In and out of conference, our opponents have played great and it is forcing us to play at a high level each time out.

"We've been just OK statistically from the service line. I like our aggressiveness, but we need to make more serves to be successful against the tougher opponents."

Boys golfers place
sixth in league

The boys golf team placed sixth in the final OCC-Cardinal standings after shooting a 345 in the fourth round of the league tournament Sept. 13 at Clover Valley.

The Panthers finished 5-19 in the league to place behind Dublin Jerome (23-1), Thomas Worthington (19-5), Dublin Scioto (18-6), Worthington Kilbourne (11-13) and Bradley (9-15) and ahead of Delaware (0-24).

Tim Hales led the Panthers with an 84 in the final round. He was followed by Adam Tivin (85), Michael Beard (87), Ty Spangler (89) and Marcus Hunter (93).

Girls golfers also
place sixth in OCC

The girls golf team shot a 445 in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Sept. 12 at Cooks Creek.

The Panthers finished 4-20 in the league standings to place sixth, behind Jerome (24-0), Delaware (19-5), Bradley (17-7), Scioto (10-14) and Kilbourne (7-17) and ahead of Thomas (3-21). Maria Hayes shot a 93 in the final round, followed by Madison Hoscak (108), Paige Martin and Morgan Bair (both 122) and Erika Opperman (127).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

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

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 23 -- Celtic Clash at Dublin Jerome

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 26 -- Marysville at Darby Creek

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 21 -- Dublin Scioto at Rolling Meadows

Sept. 23 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek

Sept. 25 -- Bradley at Thorn Apple

Sept. 26 -- DeSales at Rolling Meadows

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Watterson

Sept. 26 -- At Watkins Memorial

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 23 -- At Watterson

Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Big Walnut

Sept. 23 -- Kim Shepherd Doubles Classic at Davidson

Sept. 26 -- At Bexley

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Sept. 21 -- Home vs. Westland

*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto. The Panthers beat the Irish 25-22, 21-25, 25-16, 25-19 on Aug. 29.

*League contest