After its best state finish, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls cross country team wants more.

After its best state finish, the Olentangy Liberty High School girls cross country team wants more.

The Patriots finished sixth (178 points) of 16 teams in the Division I state meet last fall behind champion Centerville (52). They have four runners back from state, including sophomore Emma Bower, who placed 14th in 18 minutes, 32.73 seconds. The top 25 finishers earned all-state honors.

Also back are senior Claire Linn (40th at state, 19:08.56), sophomore Sarah Colvin (115th, 20:17.53) and senior Meghan Piero (143rd, 21:18.81).

"The girls have set the bar very high," said second-year coach Darrell Dewese, whose team won OCC-Central Division, district 3 and regional titles last season. "At this point, it's too early to say where we stand, but our goals are the same. We want to win the league and qualify for state as a team, and see where it goes from there."

The regional title was Liberty's first, and its league title was its first since 2007.

Liberty was ranked fifth in the Division I state preseason poll behind top-ranked Mason.

The Patriots opened by winning the 13-team Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 29 at Pickerington North. They scored 50 points, with Dublin Jerome (75) taking second.

Freshman Grace Sprankle won the race in 18:48.1, with Bower taking second (18:49.1). Linn was fourth (19:36.7), followed by freshman Emily Matta (16th, 20:08.7), Colvin (20:37.5), freshman Maddie Ailes (31st, 20:45.9) and Piero (36th, 21:00.5).

"We have some freshmen coming in who had great middle-school races last year," Dewese said. "Grace Sprankle, Emily Matta, Maddie Ailes and Lily Biros are all freshmen that are running times right now that could put them in our the top seven."

Braves ranked ninth in state poll

Olentangy was ranked ninth in the Division I state preseason poll and returns sophomore Melina Endsley, who finished 49th (19:10.96) at state last fall after placing eighth (19:21.87) at regional.

Also back from regional are junior Chloe Murdock (53rd, 21:10.64), sophomore Gillian Sapp (60th, 21:17.93), junior Camryn Stobart (63rd, 21:19.82), junior Ashton Benson (72nd, 21:34.15) and senior Kendall Supinger (76th, 21:40.78).

"There is a ton of potential with this group," 13th-year coach Dwight Dewese said. "We are a very large team and return the bulk of our top runners from last year, as well as having a very promising freshman class."

Olentangy won the OCC-Capital meet last season, its first league title since 1999.

The Braves opened by finishing second (59) in the eight-team Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational on Aug. 29 at Foundation Park behind Massillon Jackson (44) and ahead of Westerville Central (88).

Endsley was fifth (19:24.9), followed by freshman Lex Brookshire (sixth, 19:32.6), Murdock (12th, 20:26.4), sophomore Katie Slyh (17th, 20:39.8), Supinger (20th, 20:50.5), junior Morgan McCandless (21st, 20:53.9) and freshman Gracie James (28th, 21:24.9).

"We currently have 87 girls on the team, which is up from our 77 from last year and we have been on a steady progression upward over the past several years," Dewese said. "We have a lot of depth with 31 letterwinners returning, so we have quite a bit of experience. That will make for some very competitive practices and meets. Everyone wants to get in the team race rather that the open race."

Young Pioneers expect to grow

Orange has a young roster that may suffer growing pains, but it bodes well for coming seasons, second-year coach Rae Kotarba said.

Back after competing at district are sophomore Zoe Bond (48th, 21:15.23), senior Hannah Dieker (53rd, 21:47.74), sophomore Sadie Chafin (60th, 22:25.79), senior Lindsey Brandt (62nd, 22:30.39) and senior Madison Clarkson (63rd, 22:32.13).

Anna Dove, a 2015 graduate, competed at regional, placing 33rd (20:43.11).

"Our varsity team is relatively young, so we will have them for a few years," Kotarba said. "This year we have 45 runners, which is a high number for us because we only had 28 last year."

The Pioneers opened by finishing ninth (229) of 29 teams behind champion Mason (35) in the Cincinnati Moeller Primetime Invitational on Aug. 28 at the Golf Center at Kings Island.

Freshman Allison Guagenti was 12th (19:45.2), followed by freshman Lindsay Ott (20th, 20:19), Bond (65th, 21:28.8), freshman Grace Frye (65th, 21:32.2), Brandt (79th, 21:39), Dieker (80th, 21:40.4) and freshman Abbey Seipel (98th, 21:56).

"We have a lot of good freshmen on the team, but that can also be our weakness," Kotarba said. "These girls are still growing and maturing and many of them do not have a lot of experience running 5Ks."