The numbers appear to be stacked in the Gahanna Lincoln High School boys cross country team's favor with its biggest meets quickly approaching.
The Lions expect juniors Riley Jackson and Ben Towler to be in the lead pack when they compete in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 13 and during the postseason.
What likely will determine the extent of Gahanna's success over the coming weeks is what happens with its next several runners, a group that includes seniors Evan Pfeifer and Mitchell Webb, junior Ryan Mehalic and sophomores Connor Hughes and Steffano Molina as well as a handful others who have begun to emerge.
"The biggest thing is health," coach Ryan Beck said. "Staying healthy at this point of the season can be difficult, and it's also the most important factor in late-season success. We've been extremely careful to build in rest days and adequate spacing between workouts, meets and long runs this year. The additional recovery appears to be paying dividends.
"Otherwise, we'd like to see Riley and Ben continue to push forward and challenge people competitively at the very front of the race. One key factor for us is going to be how well our pack runners three through seven are able to advance their position within the field."
The Lions were fourth in the league last season, and Beck expects another tight competition between his team, defending champion Pickerington North, Lancaster and Pickerington Central.
While the Lions scored 38 points to win the Tiger Invitational on Sept. 22 at Central, the girls team was runner-up (54) behind Teays Valley (47).
The girls, who are defending league champions, have been led by seniors Areli Ramos-Ochoa and Ari Redmond, juniors Riley Dickson and Tara Shope, sophomores Olivia Keener and Elise Wunderlin and freshman Alyssa Shope.
On Sept. 15 in the Otterbein Invitational, Alyssa Shope was fourth (20 minutes, 14.2 seconds) as the Lions were third (89) of 12 teams behind Springboro (51) and Dublin Coffman (77).
Redmond led with a fifth-place finish (20:32.6) in the Tiger Invitational.
Volleyball team looks to stay in title race
Before facing Pickerington North on Oct. 2, the girls volleyball team was tied with Pickerington Central for second (4-2) in the OCC-Ohio behind Grove City (6-0).
The Lions were 8-8 overall after falling to Big Walnut 25-10, 25-21 and Hilliard Davidson 27-25, 25-23 on Sept. 29 and before facing the Panthers.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, Gahanna continues league action at home against Grove City, which it lost to 18-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-16 on Sept. 13 in an OCC-Ohio match and 25-19, 25-17 on Sept. 15 in the Worthington Kilbourne Invitational.
The drawing for the Division I district tournament is Sunday, Oct. 7.
"I'd like to see this team continue to improve on the little things that tend to hurt us in matches, like (allowing) three- (or) four-point runs or mental mistakes," coach Molly Martin said. "If we can get past some of those, I know they can do great things in the postseason. We still have a lot of volleyball to play until that time, so it's important that we learn from each match, win or lose, in order to grow the best we can."
Through 34 sets, junior middle hitter Anna Nie was leading the Lions in kills with 129 and was among the league leaders in blocks with 42.
Senior right-side hitter Jewelee Pritchard, junior outside hitter/middle hitter Lexi Tatum and sophomore outside hitter/middle hitter Kortney Grimm also have been among the team's top hitters.
Seniors Madison Martinez (libero) and Helena Buccilla (defensive specialist) and Pritchard led the team in digs.
Girls tennis team set for sectional
The girls tennis team competes Thursday, Oct. 4, in a Division I sectional at Reynoldsburg, with the semifinals and finals to be held Saturday, Oct. 6, at the same site.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 13 at Reynoldsburg.
Freshmen Caroline Mattox and Aubrey Thomas, who played first and second singles, respectively, for much of the regular season, are seeded fourth in doubles. The other doubles entrant is seniors Rachel Becker and Hannah Secrist.
In singles, senior Abby Slates opens against Watterson's Layne Geswein, freshman Harshi Vathyam opens against New Albany's Thalia Fuentes and junior Maddie Herrmann opens against Chillicothe's Ali Gossman.
Golfers open postseason play
The boys and girls golf teams began Division I postseason play Oct. 2.
The boys opened with a sectional at Turnberry, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Apple Valley.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams at the district tournament advance to state Oct. 19 and 20 on Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
The Lions were sectional runners-up and placed eighth at district last season.
The girls opened the postseason with a sectional at Mentel Memorial, where the top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams at the district tournament advance to state Oct. 19 and 20 on Ohio State's Gray Course.
Last season, the girls were sectional runners-up and seventh at district as Kayla Davis, who is now a senior, advanced to state individually.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 6 -- Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy
*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
Oct. 4 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*Oct. 9 -- At Pickerington Central
*Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Grove City. The Lions lost to the Greyhounds 18-25, 25-20, 25-15, 25-16 on Sept. 13.
*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Lancaster. The Lions lost to the Golden Gales 25-20, 24-26, 25-6, 25-23 on Sept. 20.