There's no question the New Albany High School boys cross country team has become one of central Ohio's elite programs.

There's no question the New Albany High School boys cross country team has become one of central Ohio's elite programs.

The latest evidence: The Eagles repeated as a Division I team champion by winning the 14-team district 2 meet last Saturday at Watkins Memorial. They scored 42 points to edge runner-up Reynoldsburg (48). Also advancing to the regional meet on Saturday at Pickerington North were Hilliard Davidson (102), St. Charles (116) and Olentangy (145).

Senior Blake Taneff placed second in a career-best 15 minutes, 43 seconds to lead the drive to another championship. All five of the Eagles' scorers finished among the top 13 individuals, as the team's depth was on full display.

Junior Sebastian Matt placed sixth (16:16) even though he was the only one of the team's scorers who didn't set a personal record.

"Our senior class, they've really changed the culture of the program," coach Chad Olinger said. "It's been their work, their dedication and their leadership that's made this possible."

Also scoring for the Eagles were senior Tom Newton (ninth, 16:32), sophomore Austin Bach (12th, 16:37) and senior Alex Stanislav (13th, 16:39).

Tsehaye Hiluf of Reynoldsburg won the race in 15:40, and two of his teammates also cracked the top five. But the Raiders' fourth and fifth runners totaled 39 points while New Albany's came in with 25.

"The senior class sets off the whole atmosphere," Bach said. "They organize everything. And even if practice is optional, well, we all know we should probably go."

The Eagles aren't taking much time to enjoy their district championship, however. They advanced to the state meet a year ago and fully intend to return. New Albany (139) placed third at last year's regional, behind Pickerington North (75) and Reynoldsburg (118).

The top four teams and those individuals not on a qualifying team who finish in the top 16 at regional advance to the state meet on Nov. 6 at Scioto Downs.

"Davidson's going to be one of the wildcards, because not many teams in central Ohio have seen them this year," Olinger said. "We started game-planning for the regional as soon as the district was over. It's going to be a real bear. I told the boys to get in their long running (last Sunday) and forget districts."

New Albany's average time for their five scorers last Saturday was 16:21, and the time differential between Taneff and Stanislav was only 56 seconds. When the Eagles first moved up to Division I in 2007, the average time for their top five was 17:38. They lowered that only slightly to 17:35 a year ago, which clearly points to the strides they've made this season as a group. Their time differential last year was 1:25.

"We've been improving all year," Bach said. "We're really confident going to Pickerington because we've run there a lot. We might pick a team and go out with them and just try to gut it out at the end."

•Depth also was a deciding factor last Saturday for the girls team, which captured its second title in four years by totaling 34 points in a dominating performance in the 12-team district 1 meet.

Dublin Scioto (66), Pickerington North (70) and Hilliard Darby (118) also advanced to regional.

Mirra Galbreath (second, 19:17), Catherine Ralston (third, 19:29) and Alexa Simpson (fourth, 19:34) led the way for the Eagles. Eliza Matt (12th, 20:00) and Bryana Zuidenwueg (13th, 20:03) also scored for the Eagles, who had won a district title in Division II in 2007.

Pickerington North's Kristen Eisenhauer won the race in 19:11.

Coach Brian Olinger devised a new strategy for Simpson, a freshman who chopped 65 seconds off the time (20:39) she ran a week earlier at the OCC-Capital Division meet despite running on a more challenging course. Another key was the return of Galbreath, who sat out the league meet with an ankle injury.

"I'm a coach who likes bold moves, so it was kind of hard changing gears with Simpson," he said. "I was starting to rack my brain trying to figure out why her times practice-wise indicated she was so much better that she was showing on race day.

"We thought she might be having trouble dealing with the frantic pace at the start of a race. This time, we told her to hold back a little and wait to make a move. At about 1,200 meters, you could see in her eyes how confident she was, and the next thing I knew she was running fourth. She beat her season-best by about 30 seconds.

"It was an incredible step forward for her. She's been our fourth or fifth girl most of the season, but in practice she's been toe to toe with Mirra, especially in the little fast things we do."

Times won't necessarily be of great concern on Saturday, however.

"It's about placement at the regional," Olinger said. "Dublin Coffman and (Toledo) Notre Dame coming out of the Northwest (District) are probably the (team) favorites. Perrysburg is coming down, too, and Upper Arlington and Hilliard Davidson should be right there.

"We know it's going to be tough. Chad and I were talking, and we both agree it might be harder to qualify for the state meet coming out of central Ohio this year than it might be placing in the top 10 if we get there."