After a long preseason training schedule, Eric Lowery of the Hilliard Darby High School boys cross country team always looks forward to the season.

The Panthers entered the season with hopes of advancing to the Division I state meet after finishing 15th at regional last season.

"We definitely look forward to the season," Lowery said. "We trained really hard this summer. It was a long summer of training. We had camp week where we all go to Hocking Hills to prepare for the season. That hypes things up getting excited for the season, one last hoorah in the summer before we start."

Lowery, a senior, has been competing for the Panthers' No. 1 spot with sophomore Sean Carney.

Last season at regional, Carney finished 75th (17 minutes, 24.09 seconds) and Lowery was 82nd (17:32.12).

"I get chills just thinking about making it to state this year and putting my best foot forward and trying to take the team there," said Lowery, who is seeking his first state appearance. "Our team has the potential of being one of the best in Darby history, and I just can't wait for that."

Other returnees who competed at regional are senior Owen Martin (91st, 17:41.36) and juniors Balaji Kurapati (105th, 17:53.31) and Tyler Hessenauer (111th, 18:00.85).

"We've returned a lot of experience, so last year we were very young, but we return a lot of guys," second-year coach Matthew Fox said. "Part of the goal is to build upon that experience and try to take it to the next level this year."

Junior Nate Churchill and sophomores Caleb Nelles and David Shapoval also should contribute.

"They're a hard-working group, which as a coach is a lot of what you could ask for," Fox said. "They're involved, they're working hard, they're a good team and they're being good with each other. It's been a really good year so far. ... This year compared to last year, we have some depth."

Darby opened Aug. 18 by placing 18th (439 points) of 31 teams in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway, behind champion Davidson (141).

Carney led the Panthers, finishing 36th (17:19.4) of 280 runners.

"Ever since I was a freshman, we've always wanted to be better than Davidson," Lowery said. "They've always had a great team. Their training is impressively insane, but we always want to be up there. They finished second at state last season and that helps drives us with them being a hometown rivalry."

Last season, the Panthers placed third (81) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet behind champion Thomas Worthington (35).

"Of all the OCCs, I think ours is so balanced," Fox said. "There's not a team in our league that's considered to be easy by any means. ... I expect the same -- balance and competitive, fun to watch."

Girls' Santos seeking return trip to state

Junior Daniella Santos of the girls cross country team is seeking a return trip to the Division I state meet.

Last season in her first state appearance, she finished 28th (18:36.4) of 173 runners.

"Last year definitely didn't go as I had hoped, so I want to go back stronger this year and place much higher than I did," Santos said. "It was a good experience. I went by myself, without a team, so that was different. But I enjoyed it and I was excited for the race."

Darby returns two other runners who competed at regional last season in seniors Madison Murphy (109th, 21:36.93) and Erin Cowen (118th, 22:19.72). The Panthers finished 13th (305) at regional.

Other key runners are senior Zarsha Khuhro, junior Zahra Khuhro and freshmen Alivia Cannon and Jessica Govine.

"Daniella is able to get to the front of a race and really run and then we just try to put as many as close to her as possible, so it makes coaching kind of easy when she's that good," second-year coach Jon Agriesti said.

Darby opened Aug. 18 by finishing 18th (434) of 22 teams in the OHSAA Preseason Invitational, behind champion Liberty Township Lakota East (66). Santos led the Panthers, placing ninth (19:34.6) of 195 runners.

Last season, Santos won the OCC-Cardinal title in 18:28.33 as the Panthers (74) placed second behind Thomas (47).

"We want to be top three in the league," Agriesti said. "We want to qualify for the regional meet -- that's always a goal every year -- and advance Daniella and maybe someone else to state. That would be great. It's a year where we're growing. We have some freshmen we're trying to develop, so it's a work in progress."

Boys golfers prep for final OCC round

The boys golf team will compete in the final round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Denison Golf Club.

The Panthers finished fifth (333) in the third round Aug. 29 at Darby Creek behind first-place Dublin Jerome (293).

Tison Alexander and Tyler Mordarski each shot a 79, followed by Michael Chapman with an 81.

The girls team finished fifth (457) in the third round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament Aug. 30 at Cooks Creek behind first-place Jerome (325).

Maria Hays led Darby with an 87.

The fourth round was played Sept. 5 at Mentel Memorial.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

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Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 18 -- OHSAA Preseason Invitational at National Trail Raceway

Sept. 1 -- Hot Summer Bash at Davidson

Sept. 8 -- Mason Invitational

Sept. 15 -- Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville

Sept. 22 -- Celtic Clash at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 29 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Bradley

Oct. 3 -- Darby Dash

Oct. 13 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Davidson

Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 6 -- Canal Winchester at Darby Creek

Sept. 8 -- Grove City Invitational at Hickory Hills

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Cardinal at Denison Golf Club

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 6 -- Marysville at Rolling Meadows

Sept. 10 -- Canal Winchester and Gahanna at Kyber Run

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 11 -- At Olentangy

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy

GIRLS TENNIS

*Sept. 6 -- At Bradley

Sept. 10 -- At Grove City

Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Gahanna

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 6 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

*League contest