Longtime Upper Arlington High School girls cross country coach Dale Hartney has been around the sport long enough to know that early-season success is not necessarily an indication of a team's talent.

Longtime Upper Arlington High School girls cross country coach Dale Hartney has been around the sport long enough to know that early-season success is not necessarily an indication of a team's talent.

But he believes his team will continue to be successful if it sticks to the plan he implemented for the season-opening New Albany Classic on Aug. 24, as the Golden Bears finished second of 14 teams with 84 points, behind New Albany (56) and ahead of third-place Ready (108).

Senior Olivia Menden paced the Bears, finishing ninth in 21 minutes, 48 seconds.

"We stayed as a pack for the first two miles and I think Olivia held back and could have had a better time, but that wasn't the important thing," said Hartney, who is in his 27th season leading the girls program. "To be a great team, you have to be able to run together and finish close together or else you can't beat really good teams."

Rounding out the Bears' top seven at New Albany were sophomore Dorrian Jaffe (13th, 22:01), freshman Megan Brewer (14th, 22:03), sophomore Sarah Heuerman (21st, 22:32), sophomore Karla Jeggle (27th, 22:55), freshman Erin Simko (37th, 23:28) and sophomore Reyna Lusson (40th, 23:42).

Also competing were freshman Kristen Seely (58th, 24:43), junior Meghan Koeneman (66th, 25:04), sophomore Gabriella Berland (77th, 25:21), junior Judith Westwood (82nd, 25:33) and junior Sophia Pataky (83rd, 25:34).

"Our goal was to finish close (together)," Menden said. "In the first two miles, we made all seven of us run together and then after two miles, we could break off. We have a really young team and they really rose to the occasion."

On Aug. 27 in the Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational, the Bears finished first (28) of 10 teams, ahead of runner-up Gahanna (57). Menden was second (19:46.8), followed by Jaffe (third, 19:48.6) and Brewer (fourth, 20:24.2)

"We have a young team, and we should get a whole lot better as the year goes on," said Hartney, who has 42 girls in the program. "We're off to a good start, and we can get even better. This could be a very good team if we keep working hard."

Menden finished 25th (18:45.6) in the Division I state meet last fall at Scioto Downs. The top 25 runners earn all-state status. Also competing at state was Jaffe, who finished 71st (19:19).

The duo qualified for state by finishing in the top 16 at regional at Pickerington North. Menden was fourth (19:08.7) and Jaffe was fifth (19:16.4).

The girls team just missed qualifying for state, as it finished fifth (133), 11 points behind the fourth and final state qualifier, Hilliard Davidson. Toledo Notre Dame Academy won the regional title with 87 points, followed by Perrysburg (88), Dublin Coffman (92) and Davidson (122).

UA was second (60) in the 12-team district 3 race at Watkins Memorial, behind Davidson (44) and ahead of district-qualifiers Dublin Jerome (80), Canal Winchester (138) and Olentangy Orange (139).

In the OCC-Central Division meet at Hilliard Darby, the Bears were second (49), behind Coffman (31) and ahead of Davidson (55), Thomas Worthington (118), Darby (133), Central Crossing (186) and Worthington Kilbourne (194). Westland competed but did not have enough runners for a team score.

•The boys team opened Aug. 24 in the 14-team New Albany Classic, finishing sixth (168) behind champion Central Crossing (40).

Also using the two-mile pack mentality, UA was led by senior Victor Pataky, who finished 20th (18:37).

Junior Nathan Perry (28th, 19:05) was next for the Bears, followed by junior Jacob Fowler (37th, 19:30), sophomore Hunter Blocher (44th, 19:58), sophomore Tyler Bergen (46th, 20:02), sophomore Kyle Eppert (57th, 20:32) and junior Campbell Atchison (58th, 20:34).

"We have four of our top seven runners back from last year with Victor, Nathan, Jake and Tyler," said Hartney, who has led the boys program for 35 years. "Hunter Blocher did well in his first time running varsity and Kyle Epperts came over from football. Also, Campbell Atchison came from St. Charles and he could be a big help."

Also competing at New Albany were junior Carl Blocher (59th, 20:36), sophomore Daniel Hopewood (61st, 20:37), senior Samuel Gardner (64th, 20:43), sophomore Steven Pidock (68th, 20:53) and sophomore Alexander Griffin (70th, 20:53).

"We're trying to control our times a bit," said Hartney, whose boys program has 47 runners. "A big part of it is that if you are an unbelievable runner at the beginning of the year, you have a good chance of breaking down (with injuries) later in the season. We want to start at a certain point and get faster every week."

In the Mount Vernon Kiwanis Invitational on Aug. 27, the Bears finished fourth (135) of 11 teams, behind champion Olentangy Liberty (19).

In the Division I regional last fall at Pickerington North, Pataky led the Bears by finishing 21st (16:46.6). The top 16 individuals advanced to state.

In the 18-team district 1 race at Watkins Memorial, UA was 13th (308) behind district-qualifiers Westerville North (52), Pickerington North (118), Watkins Memorial (124), Vincent Warren Local (159), Canal Winchester (170) and Newark (191).

In the OCC-Central meet, the Bears finished fourth (111) behind Coffman (25), Darby (65) and Davidson (74) and ahead of Central Crossing (132), Thomas (141), Kilbourne (147) and Westland (250).