As the Whitehall-Yearling High School boys cross country team continues to gain experience, coach Robert Taylor hopes to see even more positive results.
The Rams are gearing up for the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 13 at Grandview's Camp Bobcat in Chillicothe and the Division I district meet Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
"It's a really good group," Taylor said. "We have a really young team. We have seniors, but they're inexperienced seniors, guys who just came out. We have a lot of freshmen and a decent group of sophomores, and it's taking them a little while to mesh and jell. Our seniors came out a little flat, but they've kicked it into gear."
Senior Chris Charles, who entered the season with the most experience and has emerged as a leader, is rounding into postseason form in hopes of a strong ending to his prep cross country career.
Charles used a strong finish to place third of 146 runners in the Arrowhead Invitational on Sept. 19 at Whetstone. He finished in 18 minutes, 11.5 seconds, behind champion Bushra Bonkiye (17:04.8) of Eastmoor Academy.
"I didn't know what to expect going into the meet because I started off a little slow compared to other years," Charles said. "Other years I come back, and I'm ready. This year I was ready, but my body wasn't. I was still recovering from hard workouts, and I was running slow times. I got into my mind that was going to be the meet that I bounce back."
The Rams finished fifth (154 points) of 15 teams behind Watterson (39), Centennial (103), Eastmoor (152) and Centerburg (153).
Yared Yesuf was 23rd (19:50.4), followed by Alex Rodriguez (31st, 20:24), Resean Hutter (49th, 21:30.9) and Ben Pooch (68th, 22:42.7).
"It was a great performance," Taylor said. "We were fifth, but only two points out of third place."
Charles turned in another strong effort in finishing 11th (personal-best 17:29.8) of 317 runners in the Saturday Night Lights B race Sept. 22 at Centerville behind champion Drew Blazer (16:55.4) of Springfield Northwestern. Rodriquez was 89th (18:50.7).
Whitehall finished 22nd (526) of 36 teams behind champion Newark Catholic (176).
The Rams will continue to prepare for the league meet and postseason when they compete in the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic on Saturday, Sept. 29, at London Country Club.
"Right now we're just rebuilding our team," Charles said. "We have to get these younger guys out. We have to lead this program with the mindset that we have to work because we're being looked down on. We have to bring it up."
The girls team also features a young roster with junior Selamawit Alebachew, who was 54th (22:33.1) of 297 runners at Centerville, leading the way.
Whitehall finished 16th (478) of 17 teams in the open race behind champion Cincinnati Ursuline (54).
Freshman Merafe Endalew led the Rams at Whetstone, finishing 68th (30:11) of 94 runners. The Rams did not have enough runners for a team score.
"We started off struggling to get girls, but now we have about 10 girls running and a bunch of younger girls," Taylor said.
"Both (girls coach) Tasha (Gallagher) and I recruited hard when school started to build our freshmen."
Football team faces another key test
The football team will seek its fifth consecutive win when it visits Grandview on Friday, Sept. 28, for a key MSL-Ohio contest.
The Rams improved to 4-1 with a 37-23 win over visiting Columbus Academy on Sept. 20. It was Whitehall's league opener.
Grandview improved to 5-0 with a 35-13 win at Bexley in its league opener Sept. 21.
Last season, the Rams defeated Grandview 24-12.
Senior quarterback Raymell Byrd led Whitehall against Academy, racking up 446 all-purpose yards. He rushed for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and completed seven of 17 passes for 125 yards.
The Rams led 30-9 after three quarters before holding off an Academy comeback. The Vikings pulled to within 30-23 in the fourth before Byrd's 71-yard touchdown run sealed the victory.
Harrison Morosky led Grandview against Bexley, rushing for 89 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Quarterback Kyle Casey completed 10 of 18 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown.
"Any team in this league can beat us and when you combine with the fact that we beat ourselves a lot, every week is going to be a challenge," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "We have to get better."
Boys soccer team ties two league games
The boys soccer team remained in the MSL-Ohio title chase with a pair of ties.
The Rams tied Worthington Christian at 2 on Sept. 19 and played Academy to a scoreless tie Sept. 22 to move to 1-0-2 in league play.
Whitehall was 4-2-5 overall before playing Independence on Sept. 25.
Lauro Guijosa and Fernando Sanchez scored against Worthington Christian.
Jared Alvarez had five saves against Academy.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic at London Country Club
Sept. 29 -- At Hamilton Township
Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Horizon Science
Sept. 29 -- At Cristo Rey
*Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Bexley. The Rams lost to the Lions 25-12, 25-17, 29-27 on Aug. 23.