Saying goodbye to seniors is a rite of passage in prep athletics, and Bexley High School boys cross country coach Eric Acton has done his share of bidding adieu.

Saying goodbye to seniors is a rite of passage in prep athletics, and Bexley High School boys cross country coach Eric Acton has done his share of bidding adieu.

Acton, now in his 20th season, is replacing three captains in 2012 graduates Sam Beech, Aaron Pelz and Nate Taylor. But while they'll be missed, Acton said there's no reason to think the Lions won't fare well this fall.

"We lose that," Acton said, "but we have so many athletes out this year that we're finding that there's plenty who are eager to run at the top, or be in the varsity mix."

Junior Ian Kellogg got off to a strong start, finishing first (16 minutes, 31.63 seconds) in the Hamilton Township Invitational on Aug. 21.

The Lions finished second (41) in the seven-team event behind champion Hilliard Darby (29).

"I thought it was excellent to see that out of Ian," Acton said. "I had a chance to talk to him about how significant it was for him to be able to start and finish that race in the lead, and how difficult that is.

"When you're in the lead and you're being chased for 3.1 miles, it can be unnerving for some athletes. He has shown a lot of maturity this year in his summer training and his workouts. That was evident in his race at Hamilton Township. That's a leap."

Other returning runners include juniors Nate Agnoli, Oliver Gladfelter, Cole Keny, Alex Meyer and Sam Shorr and sophomore Jackson Feinknopf.

Senior captains are Kevin Powers and Clay Cardenas.

Senior Ryan Prendergast is new to the program, but has impressed.

"Every once in a while you get this kid who is a competitor," Acton said. "He's never run before, but he wants to be a winner and he goes after it."

Junior Jason Adkin also is new to varsity.

Last year, Bexley reached the Division II regional meet at Pickerington North, where it finished seventh (232) behind champion Proctorville Fairland (57). The Lions advanced to regional by finishing second (89) behind Granville (21) in the district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial.

The Lions finished third (89) in the MSL-Ohio Division meet behind Granville (23) and Lakewood (79) and ahead of Columbus Academy (111), Heath (143), Licking Valley (144), Newark Catholic (149) and Whitehall (171)

"The way we ran in the district was a highlight," Acton said. "We were in a tough league. The last couple years it was really tough. It's really nice, though, because chasing Granville can help us become better. It's nice to have them as a goal and we know that if we can chase them we'll become better and have a better chance of advancing through the (postseason)."

Despite the graduation of some of last year's top runners, Acton believes his team can sustain the turnover.

"Because of our numbers, it seems to me that there's not as much rebuilding as it is reloading," he said. "I have 42 boys and 36 girls. I have over 10 percent of the student body on my team.

"Some of the kids trained really hard this summer and some didn't. Some can get themselves into shape quickly. I feel that creates really positive energy in the workouts and races. We tend to be a good team, year in and year out."

In the Whitehall Invitational on Aug. 25 at Whitehall Community Park, Bexley finished second (29) behind Whitehall (28).

Girls cross country team missing Detwiler

The girls cross country team lost Abby Arace, Jacqueline Morgan and Olivia Sarver to graduation after reaching last fall's regional meet, where the Lions finished 10th (218) behind champion Chillicothe Zane Trace (69).

"We miss them," Acton said. "You want them back, but I hope the leadership this year can do the same."

Junior Regan Detwiler is back with the team, but is recovering from a stress fracture. She led the Lions in last year's regional, placing 39th in 20:52.91.

"She's going to be out for a month," Acton said. "As a freshman she was part of our state girls cross country team and finished No. 1 for us. She's a high achiever."

Like the boys team, the girls are chasing Granville. The Lions scored 111 points at district last season to finish second behind Granville (61). In the MSL-Ohio, they scored 63 points to finish second behind Granville (28) and ahead of Academy (85), Heath (105), Lakewood (150), Newark Catholic (153), Licking Valley (160) and Whitehall (224).

Senior captains are Katie Wittig, Lindsey Mathews and Emma Arace. Senior Clara Wruck and juniors Samantha Shamhart and Lissy Schmidt also are on varsity. New competitors include sophomores Meghan Hayden and Jocie Steinke, as well as freshman Meg Rhoads.

On Aug. 21, the Lions finished second (53) in the six-team Hamilton Township Invitational behind Darby (30). They won the Whitehall Invitational on Aug. 25 with 15 points, ahead of Licking Heights (50), as Schmidt finished first (22:39).

"We always gun for the league meet," Acton said. "We feel our goals are to stay healthy and improve and we feel if we can do that, tighten up our pack in the front, then we have done our best to make a run for the league title."

The hope is Detwiler can be close to 100 percent before the postseason.

"If we could get her back by mid-September, our high-stakes racing isn't until mid-October," Acton said. "She's a good enough athlete to get into shape, but I don't know if she can get back to top racing shape before the season is over.

"Her will and competitiveness tell me she can do it. I have faith in that."

Football team loses opener

The football team lost its opener at Harvest Prep 34-6 on Aug. 24.

Javelle Gray scored in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run.

The Lions play at Berne Union on Friday, Aug. 31.

The Rockets lost their opener 61-24 at Grove City Christian.

Last season in week two, Bexley defeated Berne Union 35-8 at home.