The Groveport Madison High School boys cross country team will compete twice in the next six days to prepare for the OCC-Capital Division meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster.

The Cruisers will participate in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Hilliard Bradley and in the Backwoods Festival, a two-mile event, on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Thornville Sheridan.

"I like the development we've made, but the times have not been great because of the challenging weather," coach Vincent Gay said. "Still, we ran very well (Sept. 14) in the Trinity/Valkyrie (Invitational) in Louisville (Kentucky) and the boys have great attitudes and work ethics. I think we can compete for the (league) championship."

The Cruisers finished 13th (376 points) of 31 teams in the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational, behind champion Medina (93).

Peyton Baker led Groveport by placing 19th of 278 runners in 18 minutes, 56.3 seconds. Also scoring for the Cruisers were Illyaas Haji (31st, 19:24.8), Kaleb Wilson (95th, 18:44.5), Eli Jackson (146th, 19:29.4) and Jason Pinkston (147th, 19:30.4).

The Cruisers competed on the same course as the league meet in the Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 22.

Baker finished 18th (17:27.3) of 104 runners, followed by Haji (26th, 17:47.5), Wilson (52nd, 18:30.2), Jackson (69th, 19:03.3) and Pinkston (83rd, 19:20.5), as Groveport placed 10th (248) of 15 teams, behind champion Lancaster (41).

"This was a chance for us to see the course and the weather was cooler, so we got to see where we're at right now," Gay said. "All seven guys who competed had their season-best times, so we're pretty happy."

Competing on a muddy and puddled course in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 8 at Watkins Memorial, Groveport finished 12th (333) of 19 teams, behind champion Lancaster (50), as Baker (19th, 18:56.3) and Haji (31st, 19:24.8) led the way.

"Individually, I got off to a slower start this year than I hoped for, but I think I'm just about back to where I was last year," Baker said. "I want to win the OCC title and help this team win the title, too. I think it's a very realistic goal.

"Illyaas is a stud, Kaleb is coming on real strong and I think Rafael Soler should be back and healthy. He's been out awhile with (mononucleosis), but he's a sprinter who built his endurance and has a work ethic that's through the roof. If he gets back, he will be a big help in these last meets."

Groveport finished first (42) ahead of runner-up and host Licking Heights (57) in the nine-team Hornets Invitational on Sept. 4, as Baker finished first (17:32.2) of 123 runners and Haji (fourth, 18:41.9) and Wilson (fifth, 18:46.9) also finished in the top five.

The girls team also will compete in the Midwest Meet of Champions and the Backwoods Festival.

The Cruisers finished second (48) behind Granville (24) in the six-team Hornets Invitational as Melanie Torres won in 22:05.7. Also scoring for Groveport were Sophia Barros (11th, 24:39.5), Brianna Chan (12th, 24:50.8), Cherub Clarke (15th, 25:14.6) and Victoria Williams (17th, 25:53.6).

Groveport finished 16th (433) in the 18-team McGowan Invitational, behind champion Olentangy Liberty (46), as Torres (55th, 24:43.3) and Clarke (74th, 25:31.6) led the way.

In the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational, the Cruisers were 24th (612) of 29 teams, behind champion Medina (149). Torres finished 73rd (22:25.3) of 295 runners, with Clarke (131st, 23:53.8), Barros (140th, 24:10), Gracia Musa (178th, 25:19.3) and Chan (181st, 25:23.2) also scoring for Groveport.

The Cruisers finished 15th (429) of 16 teams in the Bob Reall Invitational, behind champion Lancaster (77), as Torres (42nd, 22:00.8) led the way.

Girls volleyball team hoped to end skid

The girls volleyball team was 7-7 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Capital entering a home match against defending league champion Big Walnut on Sept. 25 after losing a five-game league match to Newark 27-29, 25-22, 24-26, 25-16, 15-11 on Sept. 20.

The loss was the third in a row for Groveport, following losses to New Albany (25-15, 25-27, 25-20, 25-18) in league play Sept. 13 and Licking Heights (25-21, 25-18, 25-22) on Sept. 15.

Prior to the losing streak, the Cruisers had won three of four matches. That stretch began Sept. 4 with a 25-3, 25-8, 25-13 league win over Franklin Heights. Then, after losing to Canal Winchester 25-11, 25-21, 26-24 in league play Sept. 6, the Cruisers beat Westland (25-12, 25-20, 25-20) on Sept. 8 and Bexley (25-18, 25-23, 26-24) on Sept. 11.

Football team looks to get back on track

The football team will be trying to snap a two-game slide that dipped its record below .500 when it entertains Franklin Heights in the OCC-Capital opener for both teams on Friday, Sept. 28.

The Cruisers lost to Liberty 30-0 on Sept. 21 to fall to 2-3. That same night, the Falcons fell to Westerville North 48-18 to drop to 1-4.

Franklin Heights is still trying to find its groove after losing starting quarterback Cody Little to a broken leg early in a 20-0 loss to Harvest Prep on Aug. 31. Dane Fenice, who began the season at wide receiver, has replaced Little.

Against North, Fenice was 8-for-21 passing for 134 yards and two touchdowns and Nazir Valentine rushed 16 times for 116 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown. Fenice connected with Malachi Martin for a 78-yard touchdown and with Tommy McGeehan on a 30-yard score.

Groveport has been shut out the past two games, including a 33-0 loss to Pickerington Central on Sept. 14. Against Liberty, the Cruisers managed just one first down and 26 total yards.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 29 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley

Oct. 3 -- Backwoods Festival at Thornville Sheridan

BOYS GOLF

Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Turnberry. Top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.

BOYS SOCCER

Sept. 29 -- Home vs. Licking Heights

*Oct. 2 -- At Newark

GIRLS SOCCER

*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Newark

GIRLS TENNIS

Oct. 1 -- At Ready

Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Bloom-Carroll

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 27 -- At Franklin Heights. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 25-3, 25-8, 25-13 on Sept. 4.

Sept. 29 -- Home vs. Briggs

*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester. The Cruisers lost to the Indians 25-11, 25-21, 26-24 on Sept. 6.

*League contest