Grace Blanchong and Sam Dages always seem to be on the move, whether running with the Westerville North High School girls cross country team or dancing.

Blanchong performs in Irish dancing and Dages competes in several disciplines from ballet to contemporary, but in the fall they race on the course before racing to dance practice. The sophomores were dancing long before they were running, but they believe the activities go hand in hand.

"I think they work well together, but I think running may help dance a little more because of the conditioning," said Dages, who started dancing as a 3-year-old and performs with Generations Performing Arts Center in Westerville. "During summer conditioning, it can be hard to get through a (dance) set, but once we get in the season, it helps me a lot."

Coach Johnny Jackson believes a well-rounded person is a better runner, so he's happy to have his athletes participating in other activities as long as they complete their training.

"I think cross country would help dance more than dance would help cross country," he said. "Track and cross country are like swimming. There is nothing you can do to help you. You have to swim to be a good swimmer. You have to run to be a good runner. I think dance gives them a little more endurance and they might have come to the sport a little more as naturals because of it. They had that endurance from the beginning.

"The biggest help might be mentally because it's a break. Their mind doesn't always have to be on cross country. They can do and enjoy something else and that's really important."

Blanchong started dancing at 5 years old and didn't run distance until middle school. Now she said one can't go on without the other.

"I started cross country in middle school after I quit soccer because I just had to stay in shape for dance," said Blanchong, who performs with the Richens/Timm Academy of Irish Dance in Dublin. "After a while, it just became a part of my life. It would be weird not going to practice every day."

Jackson went to see Blanchong perform at the Dublin Irish Festival and was impressed with what he saw.

"After seeing what Grace did on stage, I couldn't imagine the practice that goes into that," Jackson said. "I know as a track and a cross country coach, you take a sprinter who maybe runs 11 seconds in the 100 (meters) and he trains for hours for an 11-second race. A cross country runner trains days and weeks to run a 20-minute race, so I can imagine what she puts into that.

"Sam is the same. She does eight to 10 different dances, so she will leave here and put in three or four hours (at dance). She has to change and eat in the car on the way to practice and she rarely leaves early."

Jackson has yet to see Dages perform because she does not want him to see a performance.

"I tell him not to come," she said. "Coach said if he watches me dance, he'll find out what kind of person I am and I don't want him figuring that out."

The two runners are close at the finish line with Blanchong (20 minutes, 57.4 seconds) and Dages (21:05.2) both having their best effort during the Les Eisenhart Invitational last fall at Thomas Worthington. That race will be Oct. 7 this season.

Jackson takes pride in watching his athletes in other activities, much like being a member of the family.

"I enjoy watching the girls do other things where I can sit back and be an observer," he said. "I feel like a proud parent, sitting in the stands watching my daughters do something that I don't have anything to do with. I don't have to coach. I can just relax and watch them, and like most parents, when I watch them, my gaze is only on my child. I enjoy watching them do other things and other sports where I can just enjoy what they are doing."

Blanchong did not race in the Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 23 at Lancaster because of a church function. Dages finished 42nd (21:54.6) as Erica Mobley (37th, 21:51.7) led the Warriors, who finished 10th (291 points) of 22 teams behind champion Lancaster (89).

Isaiah Hutcherson (16th, 18:18.43) led the boys team, which was 14th (398) of 21 teams behind champion Olentangy Liberty (65).

"I wasn't the fastest when I started (distance running) and then when I came to high school I started to get faster," Dages said. "I started PRing, and it was such a great feeling. It's so much fun."

Boys golfers slated
to begin postseason

The boys golf team plays in a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Clover Valley.

The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.

Last season, the Warriors finished 12th (386) of 13 teams in the Clover Valley sectional behind district-qualifiers New Albany (299), St. Charles (301), Dublin Scioto (309) and Dublin Coffman (323). Josh Brown and Preston McCallum are back from last fall's postseason lineup.

Girls golfers head to
Westchester sectional

The girls golf team plays in a Division I sectional Tuesday, Oct. 3, at Westchester.

The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.

Last fall, the Warriors finished 10th (458) in the Mentel Memorial sectional as Watterson (337), Coffman (341) and Olentangy (345) advanced to district. Amelia Bernard, Ella Holtzmuller, Lauren Jett and Paige Miller return from the sectional lineup.

Girls soccer team
remains in title hunt

The girls soccer team was unbeaten in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Liberty on Sept. 26.

The Warriors entered the game at 4-4-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the league. They were 2-0-1 in their previous three contests.

Trinity Hassey scored and goalkeeper Bethany Worm had two saves as North defeated Westerville Central 1-0 on Sept. 11 in its league opener.

Mikalyla Martin scored and Worm had four saves as the Warriors tied Olentangy at 1 on Sept. 19 in league play.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

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

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 30 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Darby

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central

Sept. 30 -- At Upper Arlington

*Oct. 2 -- At Westerville South

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 28 -- At Thomas Worthington

Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Zanesville

*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. South

GIRLS TENNIS

Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Groveport

Oct. 3 -- At Mount Vernon

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Warriors lost to the Braves 25-13, 25-12, 21-25, 25-13 on Sept. 7.

*Oct. 3 -- At Olentangy Liberty. The Warriors lost to the Patriots 25-12, 25-11, 25-13 on Sept. 12.

*League contest