Wanting to close the gap in terms of winning OCC-Capital Division championships, Canal Winchester High School cross country coach Jeff Kline asked a lot from his runners this summer and kept meticulous records of their progress.

Two races into the season, Kline is seeing the fruits of their labor, although the season's most important races still are more than a month away.

Six of the Indians' top seven boys runners returned, as did four of the top seven girls from teams that finished third in the league last year. According to Kline, 43 runners in the program combined to log 5,098 miles during the team's seven-week "Summer Mileage Challenge."

"Our athletes made great improvements this summer," said Kline, who is in his sixth season. "Our returners will be much improved this fall due to their commitment to summer training. ...

"Our top six (girls) returners logged over 1,000 miles combined this summer and they will surprise some people."

The top two runners from last year's boys team are back in senior Will Butler and junior Reece Klamorick, joined by four other returnees in junior Drew Kotwis and sophomores Nate Hoffman, Michael McKeon and Brett Smithers. The Indians scored 79 points at last year's league meet to finish behind Newark (31) and New Albany (35).

The girls team, which scored 56 points at the league meet to finish behind New Albany (40) and Big Walnut (46), returns senior Bethany Hinkle and sophomores Bonnie Butler, Erin Duckworth and Allena Klamorick from last year's top seven.

The Indians lost their only Division I regional qualifier from last year to graduation in girls runner Paige Bormann, who finished 18th at district and 58th at regional.

Canal Winchester began the season Aug. 25 with the Dan Reid Invitational at Whitehall Community Park. Led by Butler in first place (17 minutes, 52.9 seconds) and Kotwis in fourth place (18:02.9), the boys scored 36 points to finish ahead of runner-up Bexley (47).

Also scoring were Klamorick (fifth, 18:13.2), Smithers (12th, 18:43.6) and Hoffman (14th, 18:49.2).

The girls were third (64) of five teams behind Bexley (24) and Reynoldsburg (59).

Klamorick was third (21:23.9), followed by Butler (11th, 22:58), junior Tara Schirr (14th, 23:09.8), Hinkle (17th, 23:49.5) and Duckworth (19th, 24:04.9).

"We are counting on an improved sophomore class to round out our top seven (on the boys team)," Kline said. "Our depth is a strength. We have at least 14 guys who are capable of breaking 19 minutes this year.

"Our girls graduated 13 (runners) last year. This is a rebuilding year for us. Allena is a very good frontrunner for us and Bethany Hinkle is a great senior leader. Bonnie Butler, Erin Duckworth, (junior) Sophia Garcia and Tara Schirr also had outstanding summers. We need every returner to improve by 75 seconds over last season to compete for a conference title and a regional berth. That is asking a lot, but their 'coachability' and outstanding work ethic give us a chance."

Canal Winchester is seeking its first state qualifier since 2011, when Kayla Scott of the girls team finished seventh. The boys team has not been represented at state since Jarrod Genther in 2010.

According to Kline, other expected runners for the boys are seniors Matthew McKeon, Noah Pence and Jared Tomlinson, junior Scotty Garner, sophomores Dominic Babusci, Ian Lewis and Jake Snider and freshmen Elike Heh and Carson Reeb.

Rounding out the girls roster are juniors Esthella Marquez, Mikaela Vojacek and Lauren Young, sophomores Adrienne Crist, Evelyn Cuddihy, Merideth McFarland and Jessica Miller and freshmen Emily Avery and Kayla Fearing.

In the 16-team Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 29, Butler was third (17:32.7) to lead the boys team to 74 points and second place behind New Albany (69). In the girls race, Allena Klamorick was third (21:23.9) and the Indians finished third (127) behind Bexley (40) and New Albany (86).

Volleyball team finding its stride

First-year girls volleyball coach Kellina Snyder said she used more lineups in the first few weeks of the season than she could count, but added that back-to-back wins after an 0-4 start seemed to help clear matters.

"We are growing together as a team, including me," said Snyder, the Indians' junior varsity coach the past three seasons who took over the varsity team when three-year coach Dana Stearns left to start the program at Olentangy Berlin. "I have to grow right along with them and trust them. I have to trust our system and the next kid going in. All I can ask a girl to do when I call upon her is for them to do their job, whether that's a serve or attacking or defense. I need somebody to make a difference."

Canal Winchester lost eight players to graduation from a team that went 15-8 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Capital a year ago and returned senior Kailey Waller (defensive specialist) and juniors Shalea Byrd (middle blocker) and Amanda Rarick (outside hitter).

The Indians were 2-5 before their OCC-Capital opener Sept. 4 at Big Walnut.

Canal Winchester opened Aug. 18 by going 0-2 in a tri-match at Dublin Scioto, losing to Hamilton Township 25-13, 25-15 and the host Irish 25-20, 25-20 before a 25-14, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19 loss to Lancaster in its home opener Aug. 23 and a 25-15, 25-21 loss at Bloom-Carroll in the first match of a tri-match Aug. 25.

The Indians got their first win later that day, 25-23, 26-24 over Reynoldsburg, and defeated visiting Westland 25-8, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22 on Aug. 28 before losing to Pickerington North 25-11, 21-25, 25-9, 25-8 on Aug. 30.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Kara Balsimo (outside hitter) and Sammy McDonnell (defensive specialist), juniors Rylee Gillam (defensive specialist), Riley Krueger (middle hitter), Natalie Rarick (outside hitter) and Jayana Thompson (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and sophomores Ally Hawkins (middle blocker/outside hitter), Avery Huntzinger (setter) and Emi Waller (libero).

Canal Winchester finished second in the OCC-Capital last year behind Big Walnut (10-0).

According to Snyder, perhaps the biggest change from last year is the offense the team is running in the hopes of contending for a league title.

"We're running some fast offense. We play in a very good league with a lot of power volleyball," she said. "It's important for us to get balls and run a quicker offense and get more girls involved instead of just one girl handling everything. Volleyball is such a game of rhythm. It's taken some trial and error to find some consistency, but it's coming."

Football team enjoying new locker room

The football team's 26-year-old locker room finally underwent a renovation, and the players got to enjoy its new look when it was re-dedicated Aug. 27.

One hundred eleven oak lockers measuring two feet, 18 inches wide and six feet tall were installed. A new film room with benches and wall graphics is at the south end of the locker room, the coaches' office was repainted maroon and three new whiteboard walls and new carpet were installed.

The lockers were delivered Aug. 25, about two weeks later than originally scheduled. A brief ribbon-cutting ceremony was held after school Aug. 27.

The total cost of the project was $65,000, according to Jason Riley, vice-president of the Canal Winchester Touchdown Club. He said about one-third of that was raised through donations, and the remainder will be paid over the next four years.

"It's been fun," Riley said. "It's kind of our legacy to be able to do something like this for the program. The guys are excited and hopefully they take good care of it. The coaches have some strict standard of how they want the lockers to look. (Coach Josh Stratton) will make sure they take care of this gift."

On the field, the Indians will look to win their seventh consecutive game against former MSL-Buckeye rival Teays Valley when they travel to take on the Vikings on Friday, Sept. 7.

Last season, Canal Winchester defeated Teays Valley 33-7 in the teams' first meeting since the Indians joined the OCC before the start of the 2013-14 school year.

The Indians were 0-1 before their home opener Aug. 31 against Olentangy Berlin. They lost to host Thomas Worthington 34-21 on Aug. 24.

Teays Valley also lost its opener, 14-13 to Chillicothe on Aug. 24, and played Logan on Aug. 31. The Vikings were held to 198 yards against the Cavaliers and committed two turnovers.

"I want them to not be afraid to embrace the spotlight and make plays," Stratton said before the Berlin game. "Look for opportunities to make a difference. I am not sure we embraced that at crucial times (against Thomas). At crucial points, they made big plays and we didn't. That game boiled down to about five plays that if they go the other way, we might have come out with a win. That's something we need to continue to remember."

Golfers prep for final OCC round

The boys and girls golf teams will play the fourth and final round of their respective league tournaments Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The boys team is firmly in third place in the OCC-Capital at 9-6, having finished third in each of the first three rounds. On Aug. 29 at Turnberry, Trevor Mays shot an 85 to lead the Indians to a team score of 366 behind New Albany (320) and Big Walnut (339) and ahead of Newark (376). Franklin Heights and Groveport did not record team scores.

Also scoring were Jake Eggleston (88), Noah Cox (92) and Joshua Fair (101). Vincent Vatri shot a 104.

New Albany is in first place at 15-0, followed by Big Walnut (12-3), the Indians, Newark (6-9), Franklin Heights (2-13) and Groveport (1-14). The final round will be played at Apple Valley.

The girls team is 1-14 in the OCC-Central, last behind New Albany (15-0), Upper Arlington (11-4), Dublin Coffman (10-5), Hilliard Davidson (6-9) and Marysville (2-13).

Canal Winchester finished sixth (397) in the third round Aug. 29 at Mentel Memorial behind New Albany (292), Coffman (322), UA (329), Davidson (358) and Marysville (386). The final round will be at Westchester, the Indians' home course.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 25 -- Dan Reid Invitational at Whitehall Community Park

Aug. 29 -- Canal Winchester Invitational

Sept. 8 -- Tiffin Cross Country Carnival

Sept. 15 -- Newark Invitational at Evans Athletic Complex

Sept. 22 -- Heath Invitational at Geller Park

Sept. 29 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North

Oct. 6 -- Marion Harding Invitational

Oct. 13 -- OCC-Capital meet at Lancaster

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 18 -- at Dublin Scioto with Hamilton Township

Aug. 23 -- vs. Lancaster

Aug. 25 -- at Bloom-Carroll with Reynoldsburg and Uhrichsville Claymont

Aug. 28 -- vs. Westland

Aug. 30 -- at Pickerington North

*Sept. 4 -- at Big Walnut

*Sept. 6 -- vs. Groveport

*Sept. 13 -- vs. Franklin Heights

Sept. 17 -- vs. Teays Valley

*Sept. 20 -- at New Albany

Sept. 22 -- at Watkins Memorial with Thomas Worthington

*Sept. 25 -- vs. Newark

*Sept. 27 -- vs. Big Walnut

*Oct. 2 -- at Groveport

*Oct. 4 -- at Franklin Heights

*Oct. 9 -- vs. New Albany

*Oct. 10 -- at Newark

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 8 -- Harold Miller Invitational at Pine Hill

Sept. 10 -- DeSales at Westchester

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Capital at Apple Valley

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 6 -- Columbus School for Girls at Blacklick

Sept. 10 -- Gahanna and Hilliard Darby at Kyber Run

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Central at Westchester

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- At Westerville North

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Logan

Sept. 11 -- At Granville

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Newark

Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Fisher Catholic

Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*League contest