No matter what happens the rest of the season, Amber Hamelin is just glad to have her running buddy back.

Hamelin, a senior, has been the Pickerington High School Central girls cross country team's top runner all year, partly because junior Lauren Marvin missed the first three weeks of the season with a broken bone in her right foot. But for the past month, the two have formed a formidable tandem, and they hope that continues through a postseason that begins with the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 21, at Watkins Memorial.

"It's nice to have my buddy to run with again. (Marvin) pushes me," Hamelin said. "It's been fun being a senior and being more of a leader. I have grown a lot as a runner. It's been comfortable (being at the top). I learned a lot from the seniors last year and I want to make them proud. It is a lot of pressure but I like it. It's fun to be at the top."

At the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 14 at Lancaster, Hamelin was fifth in 20 minutes, 7.86 seconds to lead the Tigers to 92 points and third place, behind Gahanna (26) and Lancaster (47) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (106), Pickerington North (118) and Grove City (149).

Marvin was close behind, finishing seventh in 20:16.65 on a day she said she was at about 90 percent of where she wants to be. She broke the third metatarsal bone in her right foot in July and was cleared to run in mid-September.

"I am slowly getting back into the groove of things and I hope I am at 100 percent for these next few weeks," Marvin said. "Amber and I are really good friends and it's also good because we run about the same speed. It's nice during workouts and long runs that we can always run together and stick together."

Also scoring for Central at the league meet were Grace Osborn (11th, 20:32.16), Sydney Hansen (37th, 23:28.81) and Grace Vega (45th, 24:45.66). Hamelin and Marvin said the team treated the meet as a tempo race, starting out together before breaking out about a mile into the race for placement.

"It was a fun race because it was different for me to start out a little less strenuously," Hamelin said.

Matt Scrape of the boys team won the individual league championship in 15:42.46, leading Central to a third-place finish (69) behind North (36) and Lancaster (48) and ahead of Gahanna (88), Grove City (151) and Reynoldsburg (166).

Also scoring for the Tigers were Brady Johnson (third, 16:08.57), Tyler Gunderson (17th, 17:21.78), Brayden Harlor (25th, 18:04.52) and Jacob Jobe (27th, 18:05.5).

"It was going to be tough to win (as a team)," said Scrape, who was running at Lancaster for the first time. "We believed we could and we didn't have a great day. It happens. North had a phenomenal day and Lancaster was pretty good, too. But last year we had some pretty good motivation and ended up getting to state. This is something we can build from."

The boys will compete in Division I, district 2.

In both districts 1 and 2, the top five teams and top 20 runners advance to regional Oct. 28 at North.

Postseason begins for volleyball team

The girls volleyball team needs just one postseason win to reach a Division I district semifinal for the third consecutive year.

Seeded ninth in the 50-team district tournament, Central took a first-round bye and played host to 27th-seeded Dublin Jerome in a second-round match Oct. 18.

The Tigers finished the regular season at 13-8 overall but lost two matches in a row entering the tournament, falling 19-25, 27-25, 25-13 to Thomas Worthington on Oct. 7 and 25-22, 22-25, 25-18, 25-16 to Gahanna on Oct. 10. Central went 6-4 in the OCC-Ohio.

"This season, just about all of our losses have come to top-tier teams. That being said, as a group we know that we have only played to our potential in one of those losses," coach Eric Hughes said. "Our biggest demon this year is ourselves. If we are mentally present in a game, we play like champions but our biggest issue has been consistency in that regard. Our focus as of late has shifted to preparing mentally through practice as well as before games."

The second-round winner plays 12th-seeded Hilliard Darby, 15th-seeded Hamilton Township, 24th-seeded Newark or 48th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Whitehall. That winner advances to a district final Oct. 28.

Central lost to Darby 13-25, 25-11, 25-18 on Aug. 26.

"Our draw is a double-edged sword. We feel it is the best route to a district final but the toughest route to regionals," Hughes said. "No route through districts is easy and any team can get hot for the playoffs. It's just going to be a lot of hard work and preparation for the next few weeks."

Boys soccer team opens tourney

The boys soccer team tried to snap out of a late-season slump when it visited Groveport for a Division I district tournament first-round game Oct. 18.

Central was seeded 28th of 47 teams. Groveport, a former OCC-Ohio rival of the Tigers, was seeded 26th.

The Tigers ended the regular season with consecutive losses to Gahanna (2-1 on Oct. 10) and Logan (5-3 on Oct. 14) to finish 4-11-1 overall and 1-3-1 in the OCC-Ohio.

The Central-Groveport winner will visit fourth-seeded St. Charles for a second-round game Saturday, Oct. 21. That winner advances to a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, against 10th-seeded Darby, 24th-seeded Big Walnut or 37th-seeded Columbus West at the home of the higher seed, and the semifinal winner plays in a district final Oct. 28.

Girls soccer team shuts out Warriors

The girls soccer team began the Division I district tournament on a high note, shutting out host and 25th-seeded Watkins Memorial 2-0 in a first-round game Oct. 15.

Abby Augustyniak and Salma Suhaiba scored for 27th-seeded Central, which improved to 6-10 overall and will visit ninth-seeded Olentangy Orange for a second-round game Thursday, Oct. 19.

The winner plays second-seeded Dublin Coffman or 21st-seeded Briggs in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the better-seeded team's home field, and the semifinal winner advances to a district final Oct. 28.

Central won three of its last five regular-season games but dropped its final game of OCC-Ohio play, 4-0 to Gahanna on Oct. 10, to finish 1-4 in the league. The Tigers finished the regular season with a 4-0 win over Teays Valley on Oct. 12.

Tennis season ends at district

The girls tennis team fell just short of returning to the Division I state tournament, as both of its doubles pairings lost in the second round at district Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley.

Senior Margaret Gordon and junior Rachel Terbovich went 1-1 at district, as did senior Jillian Stang and freshman Semmie Moore.

Gordon and Terbovich lost to Upper Arlington's Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi 6-3, 6-2, while Moore and Stang fell to UA's Ella Hazelbaker and Noah Mizer 6-2, 6-0.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

That ended a season in which Central went 22-2 overall to set the program record for wins and reclaimed the OCC-Ohio championship.

The Tigers won their final 11 matches, many of which were played with its top singles players in Gordon, Moore and Terbovich on doubles courts in preparation for the postseason. Junior Sophie Culver and sophomores Talia DiLello and Ashleigh Gilligan played singles in their place.

"The fact that Sophie, Ashleigh and Talia could all come in and play that strong at singles and we could collect those wins while I dropped my singles players down to doubles was extremely encouraging," coach Kelli Rings said. "It's fun that we got to play and win that many matches. They surprised me all year. I told them all year they were a special team."

Central went 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio, finishing ahead of North (4-1), Gahanna (2-3), Grove City (2-3), Lancaster (2-3) and Reynoldsburg (0-5).

In a sectional Oct. 6 and 7 at home, Gordon and Terbovich defeated Moore and Stang 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles final.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave