There's a running joke between Hiruy Abraha, Tsehaye Hiluf and Khalid Omar about the rivalry on the world stage among distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia.

There's a running joke between Hiruy Abraha, Tsehaye Hiluf and Khalid Omar about the rivalry on the world stage among distance runners from Kenya and Ethiopia.

Abraha and Hiluf moved from Ethiopia four years ago and Omar moved from Kenya three years ago, but any talk of opposition between the trio doesn't last long.

Sharing their East African heritage has been made easier by their love of running - and winning - as members of the Reynoldsburg High School boys cross country team.

Abraha, a senior, and Hiluf and Omar, who are juniors, have the Raiders on pace to be a threat for significant success during the postseason.

At the 29-team Galion Festival on Sept. 18, Hiluf finished first in a personal-best time of 15 minutes, 31.26 seconds. Also running season-best times were Omar, who took third in 15:45.02, and Abraha, who was fourth in 15:45.2. Dublin Scioto's Luis Carbajal finished second (15:44.62) in the 199-runner field.

"We ran a lot over the summer and haven't taken a break since track season (last June)," Omar said. "We practice together. Over the summer, we'd run maybe about 64 miles a week."

"We like winning," Hiluf said. "We always talk about (the Ethiopia-Kenya rivalry), but really we work hard together. We hope we can be OCC champions and do well at the regional and state."

Hiluf and Abraha are brothers whose mother, Almaz, lives in Reynoldsburg. Hiluf's last name actually is also Abraha, but he prefers to use Hiluf, which is his middle name. Their father, Hiluf Abraha, lives in Ethiopia.

Because of family ties to central Ohio, the Abrahas moved to Columbus four years ago. Abraha first took up running when he was a freshman with the Raiders and Hiluf began competing at the same time, as an eighth-grader.

Omar was born in Kenya and lived there until moving to Pittsburgh when he was in junior high. He also had family members living in central Ohio and ended up moving to Reynoldsburg for his freshman year.

After not competing for the team in 2008, Omar found success running the 800 meters for the track team in the spring of 2009 and joined the cross country program last fall.

Last season at the Division I state meet at Scioto Downs, 2010 graduate Lamar Booker led the way with a 79th-place finish (17:06.76). He was followed by Hiluf (101st, 17:25.75), Omar (103rd, 17:28.01) and Abraha (104th, 17:28.08).

The returning trio has dropped significant time over the last 10 months, with two of the biggest factors being experience and better health.

Omar had never run cross country before last season, when his best time was 16:34.

Abraha had to overcome an injury that he sustained in the summer, and Hiluf battled an illness midway through the season.

"They know about the success of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners around the world, but it's not like they just got off the boat and started running well," coach Denny Hammond said. "Hiruy has gotten better, and the same thing with Tsehaye, and now Khalid is right there with them.

"They've worked as hard as anybody I've ever had. I think people underestimate that these guys work hard. It's a way of life for them. They've all dealt with different situations to become great."

Junior Jeremy Richard and sophomore Dominick Seitzer are the team's next two competitors, with Seitzer finishing 72nd (17:31.97) and Richard taking 97th (17:45.27) at the Galion Festival.

Senior Paul Newell (118th, 18:02.6) and sophomore Brian Albrecht (148th, 18:43.43) also have contributed.

The Galion Festival wasn't the first time this season that Abraha, Hiluf and Omar have shined.

At the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 11 at Watkins Memorial, Hiluf was first (15:33.6), Abraha took second (15:52.6) and Omar finished fifth (16:02.7).

That helped the team place second (118) behind Dublin Coffman (101), but easily ahead of third-place New Albany (164).

"The way they've been running is almost scary, and they're really just fun to be around," Hammond said. "Right now we're struggling a little bit trying to get our fourth and fifth man going, but Jeremy Richard is coming along and is going to be a big part of our team, too. He's as good as any fourth man in the state. Dominick has been coming along and is doing a good job now. He's had a great start to the season."

At a glance

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

Sept. 4 - Boys: Finished fourth (111) in 10-team Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Bradley behind champion Medina (58)

Sept. 11 - Boys: Finished second (118) in 28-team Division I race of McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial behind Dublin Coffman (101) and ahead of third-place New Albany (164); Girls: Finished 21st (651) in 23-team Division I race of McGowan Invitational behind champion New Albany (73)

Sept. 18 - Boys: Finished fourth (177) at 29-team Galion Festival behind champion Cincinnati Elder (74); Girls: Finished 25th (768) in 28-team Galion Festival behind champion Toledo Notre Dame Academy (102)

Saturday - Boys, girls: At Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley