It's been an unusual season for Daniella Santos of the Hilliard Darby High School girls cross country team.
Not only did the hot weather in the first half of the season act as a repellant for good times, but there also have been some other factors that left the junior a little uncertain as to what type of a pace she's been on thus far this season.
"I was hoping my times would be a lot lower at this point than they've been," said Santos, a Division I state qualifier last season. "But we ran in slop in the Mason Invitational (on Sept. 8), I didn't run well in the heat in Cedarville (Friendship Invitational on Sept. 15) and we didn't run in the Celtic Clash (at Dublin Jerome on Sept. 22) because of homecoming.
"Plus, I haven't run against real strong competition yet and I miss some of the (graduates) who pushed me in practice last year. Our assistant coach, Joe Jackson, runs with me in practice now and tries to push me. I guess I've just got to trust my coaches and be confident in my training."
Coach Jon Agriesti expects Santos to be tested in the next two meets. The Panthers compete in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Bradley and in the Darby Dash on Wednesday, Oct. 3.
"The Midwest Meet of Champions is a good field that will push her and challenge her to bring her fitness and training into play," Agriesti said. "This will be her first real true indicator of where she is. She'll be fine. She had one race that was not up to her ability and that was in Cedarville, where she finished third but struggled with a 19:22.3. Her best race was the Hot Summer Bash (on Sept. 1 at Davidson) when she won in 18:53.42. Then when we went to (the Mason Invitational), we had a bus problem and arrived late. We had to compete in the Division II race. She won that one (in 19:17.8) but wasn't pushed, so she didn't have a great time."
Santos finished 28th (18:36.4) of 173 runners at state last season, but has higher goals this fall.
"I want to win the OCC(-Cardinal Division) title, place higher at regional than last year, run at least a 17:45 at state and get on the podium (by finishing in the top 20)," she said. "I'm definitely working hard to reach those goals, but right now I don't feel like I'm on pace for that."
Agriesti also would like to see his team close the gap between its No. 4 runner and the rest of the Panthers' pack.
"Alivia Cannon is a freshman that we're really pleased with and she's been our second runner," Agriesti said. "We have two seniors who have been solid at Nos. 3 and 4 in Madison Murphy and Erin Cowen. But after that, we're still a work in progress."
In the Friendship Invitational, Cannon was the Panthers' second finisher behind Santos, placing 25th (21:24.5) of 388 runners. She was followed by Murphy (54th, 22:18.1), Cowen (69th, 22:46), Madison Brokaw (99th, 23:43.1), Zarsha Khuhro (119th, 24:13.5) and Jessica Govine (140th, 24:39.5).
The Panthers were seventh (195) of 19 teams, behind champion Mason (57).
The boys team split its squad on Sept. 15, competing in the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational in Louisville, Kentucky, and in the Friendship Invitational.
In the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational, the Panthers finished eighth (231) of 15 teams, behind champion Louisville St. Xavier (80), and were led by Sean Carney, who finished 42nd (17:04.8) of 132 runners.
In the Friendship Invitational, Jake Long was 130th (18:46.7) of 765 runners to lead Darby, which finished 25th (670) of 27 teams, behind champion Upper Arlington (119).
Golfers preparing to tee off in sectional
The boys and girls golf teams will compete in Division I sectionals Tuesday, Oct. 2.
The boys are competing at Darby Creek, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
Last season, Darby placed 11th (363) of 12 teams in the Darby Creek sectional.
Junior Adam Tivin has been leading the Panthers this season, averaging 83 in the four-round OCC-Cardinal tournament to earn third-team honors.
Also expected to be in the lineup at sectional after playing all four rounds in the league tournament are freshman Jared Wells (85.5 league average) and juniors Marcus Hunter (88.5) and Michael Beard (92) as well as sophomore Zach Brandewie, who had a 95 average in three league rounds.
In league rounds, Tivin carded a 79, Wells shot an 82 and Hunter posted an 84 at Darby Creek, while Tivin had a team-best 87 at Apple Valley.
The girls team will compete in a sectional at Mentel Memorial, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Sophomore Maria Hayes is expected to lead Darby after earning second-team all-league honors in the four-round OCC-Cardinal tournament. Hayes shot a 91 at Mentel Memorial for her second-best league round and carded an 87 at Cooks Creek.
Also expected to compete at sectional are junior Morgan Bair, sophomores Madison Hoschak and Bailey Miller and freshman Isabelle Centeno.
Girls tennis team preps for postseason
The girls tennis team posted consecutive wins for the first time this season when it defeated Delaware 3-2 in its final OCC-Cardinal match Sept. 18 and beat Westerville North 5-0 the next day.
Darby, which finished 2-5 in league play, was 4-7 overall before playing Reynoldsburg on Sept. 25. The Panthers are scheduled to finish the regular season Monday, Oct. 1, at home against Marysville.
Darby then will compete in a Division I sectional Oct. 4 and 6 at Bradley.
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 29 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Bradley
Oct. 3 -- Darby Dash
Sept. 27 -- Dublin Scioto at Darby Creek
Oct. 22 -- Division I sectional at Darby Creek
Sept. 27 -- Superintendents Cup at Thorn Apple
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Grove City
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Sept. 27 -- At Grove City
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Marysville
*Sept. 27 -- At Scioto. The Panthers lost to the Irish 25-21, 25-20, 25-16 on Aug. 28.
*Oct. 2 -- At Dublin Jerome. The Panthers lost to the Celtics 30-28, 26-24, 27-29, 25-21 on Aug. 30.