New Albany High School's Mirra Galbreath said running in last year's Midwest Meet of Champions proved to be an eye-opening experience.

New Albany High School's Mirra Galbreath said running in last year's Midwest Meet of Champions proved to be an eye-opening experience.

"I was kind of scared, honestly," she said.

But when the sophomore lines up Saturday at Hilliard Darby for her second appearance at the event, which annually attracts one of the state's top regular-season fields, she might be the one opening a few eyes.

After all, Galbreath is undefeated this season. She has broken the tape in five races and reset her own school record twice in the process. Galbreath clocked her most recent personal-best (18 minutes, 47 seconds) to win the Division I individual title at the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial on Sept. 11.

"She hasn't really been challenged yet. Some girls run better without that stress, but I don't think that'll be the case with Mirra," coach Brian Olinger said. "This'll be the first time she's really challenged over a 5,000-meter meet, and it's kind of a state-meet preview in a way, looking at the competition.

"She's excited. I think if she gets pulled along (with the other frontrunners), she'll get down into the 18:20s. It's hard to speculate, but it's a notoriously fast course."

Led by Galbreath, the Eagles were ranked ninth in last week's state poll topped by Mason, which will join them at Darby.

The field also features second-ranked Rocky River Magnificat, fifth-ranked Dublin Coffman and seventh-ranked Brunswick, among others. Also attending is Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which is ranked first in the Division II state poll.

New Albany already has defeated the Shamrocks twice in head-to-head competition, outscoring them 38-39 to win the Pickerington North Classic on Aug. 28 and 73-77 in winning the McGowan Invitational.

The Eagles are undefeated as a team as well, turning back runner-up Upper Arlington 32-37 at the Olentangy Indian Caverns Invitational on Sept. 4 and then second-place Dublin Scioto 30-40 at the Central Ohio Invitational on Sept. 18 at Sycamore Fields Metro Park.

The Eagles dominated runner-up Dublin Jerome 18-92 to win the season-opening New Albany Classic on Aug. 25.

Complementing Galbreath with plenty of depth has been the key in so many narrow victories for a team that finished fifth a year ago in the OCC-Capital Division. Two other runners, in particular, have caught Olinger's attention and made the fast start possible.

"Catherine Ralston led a strong eighth-grade team last year, and she's really come on now as a freshman. She has no fear of getting out fast," he said. "(Junior) Bryana (Zuidenueg) is another girl who has come on and probably exceeded our expectations."

Galbreath remains the pacesetter, however.

She finished 24th overall in 19:25 during the Meet of Champions last year at Hilliard Darby. Magnificat's Madeline Chambers was the champion (17:57), and she later concluded her senior season as the individual state runner-up while leading the Blue Streaks to the team title.

"This year, I have some bigger goals I want to accomplish," said Galbreath, who was a regional qualifier as a freshman. "I'm sure I'll be a little calmer this time. It's going to be another great experience."

Galbreath said she's enjoying the routine Olinger has established in his first season.

"Monday is usually a tempo run," Galbreath said. "We go easy on Tuesday, then get on the track for Wednesday's practice. We go easy again on Thursday and then Saturday is race day. On Sunday, we're back at it for a long-run day."

The boys team will be making its debut at the Meet of Champions. The girls team placed 13th (363) among 19 schools a year ago as Magnificat (34) won its third consecutive team title. The Eagles finished last in the 14-team field in their first appearance in 2008. Cleveland St. Ignatius captured last year's boys team championship.

"It's the premier meet in the state this week, if not the whole season," Olinger said. "We're creating a buzz right now, definitely, and we're really hoping to add to it this week."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the New Albany boys and girls cross country teams:

Sept. 4 - Boys: Finished first (51) ahead of second-place Liberty (57) at nine-team Olentangy Indian Caverns Invitational. Blake Taneff won the individual title (16:42); Girls: Finished first (32) of eight teams with Upper Arlington (37) taking second. Mirra Galbreath won the individual title (19:42).

Sept. 11 - Boys: Finished third (164) in Division I at 28-team McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial, as Dublin Coffman (101) won. Taneff placed sixth (16:03); Girls: Finished first (73) of 23 teams, ahead of second-place Coffman (77). Galbreath won the individual title (18:47) and Catherine Ralston was ninth (19:26).

Sept. 18 - Boys: Finished third (110) at 11-team Central Ohio Invitational at Sycamore Fields Metro Park, as Westerville North (67) won. Taneff placed third (15:51) and Matt Sebastian was 10th (16:24); Girls: Finished first (30) ahead of second-place Dublin Scioto (40). Galbreath won the individual title (18:51) as Ralston (fourth, 19:22), Elizabeth Dengler (seventh, 19:49) Bryana Zuidenueg (eighth, 19:57), Lexi Simpson (10th, 20:08.1) and Eliza Matt (11th, 20:08.9) all finished among the top 11.

Saturday - Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Darby