Brady Johnson smiled and thanked those who congratulated him for advancing to his third consecutive Division I state meet, but the senior for the Pickerington High School Central boys cross country team admitted he could have been happier.

Johnson finished 12th (16 minutes, 21.9 seconds) of 127 runners in the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, earning an individual berth to state Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway as the top five teams and top 20 runners advanced.

The Tigers fell well short as a team, however, finishing 11th (247 points) of 16 teams, behind champion Hilliard Davidson (95).

"It's a bittersweet moment because I expected to get to state, but I thought the team would be there, too," Johnson said. "Everybody had rough races at the same time. It hurts right now, but we just have to get over that and look forward to the state meet.

"At the finish, I just didn't have as much as I should have. A couple people passed me. I know what I have to work on (entering state)."

Johnson said he was as far up as seventh place on a course that in places was a mud pit after several hours of rain that continued through the meet.

"It was tougher for him than he expected, but he was still able to move on. Not many runners have that opportunity or chance. I'm really excited for him," coach Andy Fischer said. "He might have been 10 or 15 seconds off the time he wanted, but these were tough conditions. Everybody was getting bogged down. He was in a good spot for most of the race and moved up some, but the finish wasn't quite what he was hoping for."

Also scoring for the Tigers were Tyler Gunderson (56th, 17:18), Jailen Willis (64th, 17:23), Jacob Jobe (69th, 17:26.8) and Chase Balko (94th, 17:52.1).

"I wish I had an idea why," Fischer said. "Everybody has been in good spirits all week. We ran well in the (OCC-Ohio Division) meet and the district meet. Everybody's minds were right. They were calm and low key and it seemed like everybody was ready to roll. You just never know until race day."

The girls team also finished 11th (303) at regional, behind champion Davidson (38) as 17 teams scored.

Lauren Marvin was 31st in 20:17.7, followed by Grace Osborn (40th, 20:27.7), Maddie Schmidt (65th, 21:03.6), Brenna Todd (103rd, 21:55.4) and Sydney Hansen (117th, 22:21.5).

Johnson finished 40th (16:16) at state last year and 36th (15:58.1) in 2016. His best time this season is a 16:06.5, set during the Otterbein Invitational on Sept. 15.

"I am not focusing on time," Johnson said. "I'd love to get under 16 minutes because I haven't this year, but I should be primed to go 15:40 or 15:50. I am ready for that."

Girls soccer team loses in district semi

The girls soccer team's best season since 2014 came to an end Oct. 23 with a 9-0 loss at second-seeded North in a Division I district semifinal.

Senior goalkeeper Danica Hanschu made 10 saves for the 17th-seeded Tigers, who finished 10-8-1. North, which defeated Central 2-0 on Sept. 13, took a quick two-goal lead but tacked on four goals late in the first half to lead 6-0 at halftime.

The Tigers were playing in their first district semifinal since 2014. They won multiple tournament games for the first time since 2010, recorded their first winning season since going 8-6-2 in 2015 and exceeded their combined win total from the past two seasons. Central won three games in 2016 and six last year.

"This year felt so different," senior forward Lindsay Schmitt said. "We all played with heart and had a lot of passion. That got the team motivated. We knew we had a chance to go further than any other year and we did.

"We stayed onsides very well. Coach (Maria) Manzo played forward when she was in school, so she's really good at coaching us there and putting a good offense together. We just learned how to work our chemistry together. We strung passes together and kept our heads up, even if we were losing."

Schmitt, who scored a team-high 17 goals, is a Capital commit.

Despite losing five seniors, several key players are eligible to return, including juniors Mary Kathryn Berger (def-ender), Kelsey Knudsen (midfielder) and Lexy Sheets (midfielder), sophomore Tatum McElwain (midfielder) and freshman Ramiya Roy (forward).

Roy scored two goals in each of the Tigers' tournament wins, 2-1 over 28th-seeded Lancaster in the first round Oct. 15 and 4-1 against 19th-seeded Grove City on Oct. 18.

Volleyball team falls to Watterson

The girls volleyball team finished a memorable season with a program-record 21 wins and a share of the OCC-Ohio championship, its first league title in 25 years, but fell short of a Division I district title.

Seeded sixth in the district tournament, Central lost to eighth-seeded Watterson 25-18, 25-18, 25-16 in a Division I district semifinal Oct. 23 at Whitehall to finish 21-4.

The Tigers are 67-30 over the last four seasons. They were district runners-up in 2015 and 2017 and lost in semifinals in 2016 and this year.

Central went 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Grove City for the championship.

Senior libero/defensive specialist Sydney Moore and senior setter Maddie Pletcher were first-team all-league. Pletcher, a University of Texas-Tyler commit, also was first-team all-district and Moore was second-team all-district.

Senior right-side hitter Sydney Charlton, a Texas Wesleyan commit, was second-team all-league.

Senior outside hitter Makayla Estes was special mention all-league and junior middle blocker Londyn Coles made honorable mention all-league.

Other players eligible to return include junior middle blockers Alayja Floyd and Brittany Miller.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave