Third-year Canal Winchester High School cross country coach Jeff Kline has had the opportunity to work with some strong senior classes during his time with the program, including 13 seasons as an assistant coach.

Third-year Canal Winchester High School cross country coach Jeff Kline has had the opportunity to work with some strong senior classes during his time with the program, including 13 seasons as an assistant coach.

But this group of seniors -- three boys and 10 girls -- may be the strongest.

"With 13 seniors on the roster, this is tied for the largest senior class in our program's history," said Kline, whose teams open Saturday, Aug. 29, at the Springfield Northwestern Invitational. "Seven of those seniors (two boys and five girls) started running cross country in middle school, so we are loaded with experience. Our seniors are great leaders, extremely hard workers, outstanding students and just all-around good kids.

"They love this sport and they have a lot of fun training and competing with each other. We are very optimistic about the upcoming season and it is primarily because of this senior class."

The girls team consists of seniors Lauren Agler, Kate Bliven, Brittany Cain, Nicole Lamberton, Cassidy Long, LeAnna Moore, Chloe Palmer, Kaity Seitz, Megan Tamasovich and Joelle Zuberi, junior Kassidy Pastor and sophomore Paige Bormann.

"Our girls team should be the deepest team we've ever had," Kline said. "Eight of our returning letterwinners broke the 21-minute barrier last year and I believe we have three to four additional girls on the roster who can reach that level."

Last season, the girls team finished fourth (104 points) in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet behind champion Dub-lin Scioto (48) and finished sixth (149) in the Division I district 1 meet at Watkins Memorial, one spot shy of qualifying for regional at Pickerington North.

Hilliard Davidson (37) won the district title, with Pickerington North (133) securing the fifth and final regional-qualifying berth.

Zuberi led the Indians at district, finishing 21st (20 minutes, 8.4 seconds) to fall one spot shy of qualifying for regional as an individual.

"We are working very hard to develop some frontrunners who can challenge for top-10 spots in the conference and district races," Kline said. "If we can place a girl or two in the top 10 at the district race, then we will be a very dangerous team."

The boys team is comprised of seniors Carson Clark, Imani Daniels and Nathan Chiles and juniors Ethan Dasse, Ethan Fusek, Caleb Meyer, Will Morrison, Luke Schirr, Avery Warner and Zach Warnimont.

"Our boys team will have two good frontrunners," Kline said. "Ethan Fusek and Luke Schirr had very good track seasons and will give us a solid one-two punch. The guys' main focus in practice is to develop a strong pack to give us depth at the No. 3 through 7 spots. We regularly have a pack of 10 to 12 guys working together at practice, pushing the pace on their distance runs. All of those guys want to be in the top seven and that daily competition at practice is huge for our team."

Last season, the boys team finished sixth (161) in the OCC-Cardinal meet behind champion Darby (31) and placed sixth (178) in the Division I district 1 meet to miss qualifying for regional by one spot.

New Albany (31) won the district title and St. Charles (125) placed fifth.

Fusek finished 13th (16:36.4) at district to qualify for regional for the first time. He then placed 68th (17:33.18) of 122 competitors at regional.

"The OCC-Cardinal is an extremely competitive conference for cross country, one of the strongest in the state," Kline said. "Both of our teams want to improve upon last year's finishes."

Stearns guiding girls volleyball team

The girls volleyball team opened Aug. 25 at Teays Valley under the direction of first-year coach Dana Stearns.

Stearns, a 1997 Bexley graduate, is in her first season as a head coach after having served as an assistant coach for a total of six seasons at Whitney M. Young Magnet in Chicago (2008-10) and Park Ridge (Ill.) Maine East (2012-14).

She was hired to replace Kris Kern, who stepped down after compiling a 26-22 record in two seasons. The Indians finished 14-9 overall last fall, marking their first winning season since 2011.

Five players have returned in seniors Morgan Danec (outside hitter) and Noelle Saeger (middle hitter), junior Darby Krueger (middle hitter) and sophomores Audrey Jenkins (setter) and Lauren Toledo (defensive specialist).

Last season, Saeger had 168 kills and 56 blocks, Krueger had 112 kills and 44 blocks, Toledo had 152 digs and Jenkins had 162 digs. Danec had 88 kills and 23 blocks despite missing 11 matches.

Completing the roster are seniors Rachel Hawkins (outside hitter), Katie Hinkle (setter), Terra King (opposite hitter) and Anna Munthe (outside hitter), juniors Gabby Alonzo (defensive specialist), Andrea Hawkins (outside hitter), Reli Sanders (defensive specialist) and Sara Vanderwerf (defensive specialist) and sophomores Jada Butler (outside hitter) and Astrid Munthe (opposite hitter).

"I think one of our biggest strengths is the versatility and athletic ability that we have," Stearns said. "I will be looking for many girls to step into many roles. I think we have the capability of executing a quick-tempo offense and utilize our versatility on the court."

Canal Winchester plays host to Westerville South in its OCC-Cardinal opener Thursday, Aug. 27. Last season, the Indians went 8-6 in the league to place fourth behind champion Westerville Central (14-0).

"We are expecting strong competition from all of the teams in this league," Stearns said.

"We are preparing for every match to be a battle and to fight for every point and every win this season. We are striving to get to the level we know we can play at and emerge as one of the top teams in the conference."