Despite running nearly a minute faster last season, Nick Haley of the Watterson High School boys cross country team nevertheless was excited about what he accomplished Sept. 23 during the Braves Invitational at Whetstone.

Despite running nearly a minute faster last season, Nick Haley of the Watterson High School boys cross country team nevertheless was excited about what he accomplished Sept. 23 during the Braves Invitational at Whetstone.

What the junior has endured athletically and personally over the past several months has made him appreciate simply being able to be a part of the team again.

Haley, who was one of the Eagles' top two runners each of the past two seasons, finished 13th in 18 minutes, 12 seconds in the 15-team Braves Invitational to help the Eagles score 46 points and edge Canal Winchester (55) for the championship.

"It was my first meet in almost a year, so it was good," Haley said. "I was pretty excited to get back with the team and help the team."

Haley teamed up with senior Max McClelland the past two seasons to give the Eagles a strong pair.

Last season, Haley broke 17 minutes during the regular season and came in sixth (17:21.3) in the CCL meet while McClelland placed third (17:06.26). McClelland and Haley also were Watterson's top two finishers in the Division I, district 2 meet, but neither advanced to regional.

After the season, Haley experienced increasing pain in his hip that doctors compared to a stress fracture. The pain limited his training throughout the winter.

Then on the afternoon of March 21 while running on the track at Hastings Middle School, Haley was knocked to the ground by a loud noise.

Less than a mile from Hastings, a house was destroyed by a large explosion. According to reports, the force of the blast shattered windows and caused significant damage to nearby structures and vehicles.

"It was pretty loud and it just shocked me mostly," Haley said. "I had no idea what it was. I thought it was a bomb."

While uninjured by the incident, Haley continued to struggle with the hip pain and missed the entire track and field season last spring.

"I didn't run at all during the winter because my hip was really bothering me," he said. "It got really bad a month before our first (track meet) and I couldn't run at all. I didn't get back into running until the middle of the summer."

Haley returned to training once his hip improved enough and he believed he was close to being back on track for cross country when he was in a car accident Aug. 28 -- the day before the Eagles' first meet, the Newark Catholic Invitational.

He suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder in the accident and was unable to run for two weeks. The possibility remains that he will require surgery.

"I was getting in pretty good shape when I was in the car accident," Haley said. "I was in the back seat behind the driver's side and, when I went to brace myself, it jammed my right shoulder and dislocated it. It's still pretty weak."

In the Braves Invitational, McClelland led the Eagles with a third-place finish (16:48), followed by junior Ross Kuhn (sixth, 17:24.5), sophomore Nick Kuraly (10th, 17:55) and Haley.

The girls team earned a runner-up finish (46) in the 13-team Braves Invitational, behind Canal Winchester (27), as senior Caroline Sugar won the individual title (20:34). Senior Morgan Hull (eighth, 21:14) and sophomore Kelsi Connors (10th, 21:20) also cracked the top 10.

For Haley, the meet was the beginning of what he hopes can still be a successful season for him and the boys team.

"I'm hoping to try to just be the (team's) fourth or fifth (runner), and I'm just trying to focus on track because this season has been kind of tough," said Haley, whose father, Daniel, is a 1979 Watterson graduate who competed at Baldwin Wallace. "We're really hoping to win the CCL title because we've got a rivalry with St. Charles, and we'd like to make it to the regional."

The CCL meet is Oct. 17 at Otterbein University.

Field hockey team off to unbeaten start

The field hockey team took a big step toward capturing the league title when it beat Columbus Academy 3-1 on Sept. 24.

The Eagles, who placed second (6-1-1) to Academy (8-0) in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division last season, got goals from seniors Olivia Pardi, Anna Rabold and Grace Thomas against the Vikings.

Watterson was 6-0-2 overall before playing Lancaster on Sept. 29. The Eagles are 5-0 in the COFHL-East with league games remaining against New Albany (Oct. 8) and Bexley (Oct. 12).

"It's a senior-led team," coach Janet Baird said. "We've got 11 seniors, so it's probably one of our largest groups of seniors. I've got a strong senior midfield, a strong senior backfield and two returning seniors up front. I think we're a very aggressive team and are very well-conditioned."

Through seven games, senior attacker Shannon Maloney had a team-best eight goals and senior midfielder Abby Marshall was leading the Eagles with seven assists. Marshall has committed to Miami University.

"We're really trying to focus on playing off each other's strengths and being a tight unit," Baird said.

Postseasons starting in golf, girls tennis

The boys and girls golf teams and the girls tennis squad all are preparing for their respective Division I postseasons.

The girls tennis team will compete in the sectional Thursday, Oct. 1, and Saturday, Oct. 3, at Pickerington Central. Sophomore Claire Ghidotti is the top seed in singles and juniors Bridget Fountain and Haley Rague are seeded third in doubles.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 9 at Hilliard Davidson and Oct. 10 at Upper Arlington.

In girls golf, the Eagles are seeded 10th of 30 teams and are the fourth-highest seed behind Olentangy Liberty (fifth), Davidson (sixth) and Marysville (ninth) in the sectional Tuesday, Oct. 6, at Royal American. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 13 at The Links at Groveport.

The boys golf team is seeded 11th of 42 teams and is the third-highest seed in the sectional at Darby Creek behind Dublin Jerome (first) and Davidson (sixth). The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 13 at Apple Valley.