Entering this year's postseason, the Worthington Christian High School boys cross country team hadn't been represented at state since 2002 and hadn't had an all-Ohio runner since 1986.
Senior Jake Bertelsen and junior Taylor Vallangeon ended both droughts with strong performances the past two weekends.
Bertelsen placed 20th (16 minutes, 28.3 seconds) of 183 runners in the Division III state meet Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway and Vallangeon placed 25th (16:31.7) as the top 25 finishers earned all-state honors.
"We were thrilled," coach Rod Zody said. "They are only the fifth and sixth (runners) at the school to earn all-Ohio in boys cross country, and the last time it happened at our school was in 1997, and that was a girl. They had two boys earn all-Ohio in 1986, and that was the last time. They just did everything right and worked super hard."
Bertelsen ran with the leaders at the beginning of the race but "by the last 800, I was pretty spent."
"I was hoping to be a little farther up," Bertelsen said. "I was seeded 12th. I went out a little too fast and paid the price later on, but I'm happy to be all-Ohio. It's a fun course. It's a lot to take in. It's exciting, quite a spectacle, I must say."
Vallangeon was in contention for a top-25 spot throughout the race but wasn't sure he'd finish that high until it was over.
"After a while, I lost track (of how many were ahead of me) and was just trying to finish well," Vallangeon said. "Some of my teammates were telling me, 'You got (all-Ohio).' It was pretty great. I didn't expect it. Me and my teammates worked really well together. As long as I do what I need to do, I can hopefully run better next year."
The duo helped the Warriors finish fourth (91 points) in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 14 at London, behind Columbus Academy (40), Grandview (50) and Bexley (72) and ahead of London (110) and Whitehall (157) as Bertelsen was first (16:21.6) and Vallangeon placed seventh (16:57.9).
Then in the 11-team district 2 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial, the Warriors settled for fifth (135) behind champion Academy (42) as the top four advanced to regional. Bertelsen and Vallangeon qualified as individuals for the regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North, where they placed eighth (16:41.82) and 17th (16:51.22), respectively, to advance to state.
Other key runners included junior Noah Denorme, sophomores Turner Burns and Peter Tsibouris and freshmen Mackay Lykens and Donnie Kahaian.
The girls team had five competitors this fall.
The Warriors placed sixth (133) in the MSL-Ohio meet, behind Bexley (31), Grandview (54), Academy (79), Whitehall (105) and London (124) as sophomore Katherine Todd placed 18th (24:13.4) and junior Shantel Cox was 23rd (25:51.8).
Then in the nine-team Division III, district 2 meet, Worthington Christian was seventh (200) behind champion Mount Gilead (28). Todd finished 31st (23:34.83) at district as the top 16 individuals advanced to regional.
Also on the team were junior Hannah Smilges and sophomores Reagan Bowen and Joy Pitzer.
"We only had five individuals, so we really need to build on our depth, but they had a great season," Zody said. "Three of the five ran PRs this year and another ran her second-fastest time. We showed a lot of improvement."
Boys soccer team falls in regional semi
The boys soccer team's season ended with a 3-1 loss to Mansfield Christian in a Division III regional semifinal Nov. 1 at Mount Vernon.
The Warriors, who also lost to Mansfield Christian 3-0 on Oct. 7, finished 10-7-3 overall.
In the district tournament, third-seeded Worthington Christian beat 16th-seeded Delaware Christian 8-0 on Oct. 18, 15th-seeded Fairbanks 3-0 on Oct. 24 and fourth-seeded Wellington 1-0 in a final Oct. 28.
"From the summer, our leaders made it the mission of the team to re-establish ourselves as perennial district champs," said coach Dan Roads, whose team lost in a district final each of the past two seasons. "This was a constant focus and conversation amongst the team. To be back within the top teams of the state is fulfilling, and the achievement made our season."
The Warriors went 4-1-2 in the MSL-Ohio to place second, behind Academy (6-0-1) and ahead of Grandview (4-2-1), Wellington (4-3), Bexley (3-2-2), Zanesville Rosecrans (3-4), London (1-6) and Whitehall (0-7).
Worthington Christian is losing 11 seniors, including Kyle Smith (defender), Jake Strick (center midfielder) and Nathan Yoder (goalkeeper).
Among those eligible to return are juniors Ian Davidson (midfielder) and Andrew Rider (midfielder), sophomores Daniel Cardenas (forward), David Rettstatt (midfielder) and Brien Wall (midfielder) and freshmen Tyler Kindberg (forward) and Levi Yoder (midfielder).
"This year we had great leadership and players willing to trust the program and the journey," Roads said.
Football team should return strong nucleus
Despite losing its first four games, the football team finished with a .500 record this fall.
It marks the second consecutive non-losing season for the Warriors, who received a forfeit win over Fisher Catholic on Oct. 7 and finished 5-5 overall.
With a 56-21 loss to Berne Union on Oct. 27, Worthington Christian tied Berne Union and Rosecrans for second in the MSL-Cardinal at 5-2, behind Harvest Prep (7-0) and ahead of Grove City Christian (3-4), Millersport (2-5), Fairfield Christian (1-6) and Fisher Catholic (0-7).
The Warriors beat eventual Division VI playoff qualifier Rosecrans 16-10 on Sept. 29.
"As a team and coaching staff, we're definitely improving as you'd like to in your first year," coach Jeff Hartings said. "I think our players and coaches know each other better than we have all year long."
The Warriors are losing eight seniors, led by Galen Cox (DL/OL), Braedon Mullins (QB/P), Danny Myers (LB/RB) and Joe Seifert (LB/OL).
Seifert finished with 87 tackles, six quarterback hurries and 8.5 tackles for loss.
Mullins completed 51 of 109 passes for 666 yards with four touchdowns and rushed for two scores.
Myers had 16.5 tackles and two interceptions and Cox had 32.5 tackles and seven tackles for loss.
"We graduate eight seniors, and they're all very big contributors," Hartings said. "Joe Seifert is a very good offensive lineman. We moved him to (H-back) and moved him back to guard. He's probably the MVP of our team. Galen Cox is in some ways a man amongst boys."
Junior Michael Hartings (RB/LB) will be among the top returnees next season, along with juniors Derek Holston (OL/DL), Michael King (WR/RB/DB), Alex Pope (OL/DL) and Luke Sharp (OL) and freshman Braden Anderson (DL).
Hartings rushed for 951 yards and 10 touchdowns and had 41.5 tackles on defense. King had 17 receptions for 120 yards and three touchdowns and an interception on defense, and Holston had 31 tackles.
Anderson had 54.5 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and one sack on defense and rushed for 124 yards on offense.
"We had injuries at the beginning of the year that forced us to change our offense, but we finally found an offense that works well for the players we have," coach Hartings said. "Michael Hartings (had) a pretty good season at running back."