As Upper Arlington High School girls cross country runner Heidi Heuerman amped up her training this past summer, she barely realized she was doing so.

Now that it has paid off in improving 29 spots at the Division I state meet, the junior said she's definitely noticed the benefits.

Heuerman finished 31st (18 minutes, 39 seconds) of 173 runners in the state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway, considerably better than her 60th-place finish and time of 19:16.1 from a year ago.

"I think that training carried through the season and helped me get better," Heuerman said. "I was up to like 35 or 40 miles per week in the highest weeks. (Last year,) it was around 30 or 35. I didn't really think about it that much. It just sort of happened as I was getting more mature. With my summer training, I just told myself it was my junior year and I had to step it up a little more."

Heuerman said she exceeded her own expectations by about 11 seconds, largely because she factored a muddy track into the equation. The weather was dry, a considerable improvement from the regional meet seven days earlier at Pickerington North when rain fell most of the day.

Heuerman was in 46th place halfway through the race before picking off several runners.

"I just kept reminding myself this is the last (race of the year). I've really got to go," Heuerman said. "That really helped me finish strong."

UA expects to return its entire postseason lineup, the rest of which consisted of juniors Elizabeth Clingan, Eileen Dunn and Mallory Sharp, sophomore Emma Switzer and freshmen Elizabeth Lembach and Sofia Sivilotti.

The Bears finished second (53 points) in the OCC-Central Division meet Oct. 14 at Hilliard Darby, behind Hilliard Davidson (22) and ahead of Marysville (77), Dublin Coffman (88) and Central Crossing (155).

UA placed fourth (99) in the district 1 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial behind champion Davidson (45) as 16 teams scored.

The Bears then finished sixth (196) at regional Oct. 28 at Pickerington North behind champion Granville (63) as 17 teams scored. Heuerman placed 14th (18:51.7) as the top five teams and top 20 runners advanced to state.

"We hope next year will be our year to come here as a team," Heuerman said. "We know we have the talent to get back here."

While Heuerman's performance at state capped a season in which the girls team was represented at state for the 14th time in 15 years, the boys team enjoyed a resurgence under first-year coach Scott Meyers.

The Bears finished third (68) in the league meet behind Davidson (24), Coffman (60) and ahead of Marysville (99), Central Crossing (130) and Westland (189), and placed fourth (111) in the district 1 meet behind champion Davidson (45) as 16 teams scored to earn their first regional berth since 2012.

UA then finished last (356) of 16 teams at regional behind champion Davidson (91).

Seven of the Bears' eight runners from the postseason are expected to return. That group consists of juniors Jack Amling, Thomas Richter, Cole Smith and Nathaniel Swords and sophomores Benjamin Crespo, Daniel Owens and Will Reynolds.

Amling was the team's top runner in both postseason meets and its second-highest finisher in five regular-season meets, all behind Richter.

"We can win some meets next year," said Meyers, who had been an assistant coach in the program for two years before taking over the boys team while Latisha Wilder exclusively coached the girls.

"UA boys have not been what I think they should be for a while. We're not a split high school like a lot of these districts. If I can have 101 boys in the program, I sure ought to be able to have five fast ones. I am excited for what they did, but I want more."

Boys soccer team looks to build, reload

Although his team arguably played its best late in the season, boys soccer coach Kevin Donovan felt the season's biggest moments did not always show on the scoreboard.

Donovan said the second half of the team's fourth game, a 3-0 loss at Dublin Jerome on Aug. 31, ended up being one of the defining moments of the year.

"Down 2-0 at the half and already 0-3 on the season, we played some excellent soccer in the second half and were unlucky not to have anything to show for it on the scoreboard," Donovan said.

"From that game on, we really started to impose our style of play on teams and got much better about creating and taking chances."

UA went 5-2-1 in its last eight games and finished 6-8-2 overall, losing 3-2 at Pickerington North on Oct. 21 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Forward Ryan Burke, one of 15 seniors on the team, led the Bears with eight goals. Senior midfielder Nico Slattery scored three and senior midfielders Noah Mitchell and Adam Wade and junior forward/midfielder Fernando Dapino each scored two.

Burke and Slattery both were named first-team all-OCC-Central.

Senior defender Evan Turner was second-team all-league, senior midfielder Matt Marsh was special mention all-league and Wade made honorable mention all-league.

The Bears went 2-2-1 in the OCC-Central to finish fourth, behind Coffman (4-0-1), Marysville (3-0-2) and Davidson (3-2) and ahead of Westland (1-4) and Central Crossing (0-5).

Seeded 20th in the 47-team district tournament, UA defeated 29th-seeded Westland 1-0 in the first round Oct. 18 before falling to the ninth-seeded Panthers.

Among other expected returnees are juniors Pete Edwards (goalkeeper), Diego Ly (midfielder) and Tristan Moore (midfielder).

"As the season wore on, we showed a better mindset," Donovan said.

"For next year, the big goals will be to continue to fine-tune our style of play while really instilling a mental toughness that allows for consistency in performance in training, from game to game and within the games themselves."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave