Even though friends Hunter Moore of Olentangy Orange and Arjun Jha of Thomas Worthington had gone head-to-head three times this high school cross country season, neither was sure how the Division I boys regional race at Pickerington North on Oct. 29 would materialize.

Even though friends Hunter Moore of Olentangy Orange and Arjun Jha of Thomas Worthington had gone head-to-head three times this high school cross country season, neither was sure how the Division I boys regional race at Pickerington Northon Oct. 29would materialize.

"I kind of assumed Arjun would go out with his teammates, tuck in and make his move later," said Moore, a senior. "Today, maybe because of the wind, it was more like a sit-and-kick type of race. When Arjun went, I went and it was a huge surge. Fortunately, I lasted a little longer than he did today."

Moore wonin 15 minutes, 28.48 seconds, while Jha placed second in 15:31.49. Both are ranked in the top five in the Midwest.

"I really didn't know what to expect except that we both had the credentials," Jha said. "It was somewhere between a fast race and a tactical race. I couldn't outkick him today. I look forward to going at him again next week."

Moore and Jha are expected to be among the favorites in the state meetNov. 5at National Trail Raceway.

Thomas Worthington, with 71 points, won its first title since 1991.

"The guys ran really well, but hopefully we haven't run our best race yet," Cardinals coach Bill Darling said.

In the Division I girls meet, Gahanna took four of the top 22 places and won with 97 points.

"Our top four girls just ran out of their minds," Lions coach Ernie Ziegler said. "They surprised even me by the way they executed today and hung so tough. They were on a mission."

To no one's surprise, India Johnson of Hilliard Davidson easily won in 18:36.2. One of the top-ranked runners in the nation, Johnson is undefeated this fall.

"It was a much tougher race than it looked," the Michigan State commit said. "I had a really strong week of training and I cramped up about halfway through the race. I really didn't have the kick I usually do today. It's just about moving on, anyway."

Heath's boys (103 points) and Granville's girls (82) won Division II championships.

"I was really happy with how we got our pack tightened up today," Heath coach Scott Brown said. "Last year was the first time we got to state in 30 years and the guys are really committed to making some history with this group."

Eastmoor Academy (141) was the Division II boys runner-up, becoming the first City League team to reach state since 1988 when Independence qualified.

"Just making the dance has been something we've talked about since track (season ended)," Warriors coach Jason Lewis said. "We want everyone in the City League to know that something like this is possible if you're willing to make the commitment."

For Granville's girls, who won the state title two years ago, it marked the eighth time they have qualified for state.

"Kylee McFarland is our only girl still around from the (2014) state team, and it took a little time for this group to learn how to work together and create a new dynamic," Blue Aces coach Chrisi Rogerson said. "But just like that team, they've come around at just the right time."

Zach Kreft of Buckeye Valley won the Division II boys race in 15:29.82, beating runner-up Taylor Hopkins of Heath by more than 43 seconds.

"I thought we went through the two-mile a little fast and I wondered if it maybe would catch up to me at the end, but apparently everybody else was fading even more than I was," Kreft said.

Leesburg-Fairfield's boys (71) and Tuscarawas Valley's girls (86) took home Division III titles. Austin Hallabrin of Mount Gilead (16:19.3) and Kyleigh Edwards of Fairfield Christian (18:46.44) were respective medalists.

Hallabrin, who was regional champion in 2014 and runner-up last year, finished with a terrific kick.

"It was a little tougher course than most, but that suits me fine," Hallabrin said. "You don't ever want to die in a race like this, so I waited to make my move."

Third in the state a year ago, Edwards has her sights set on a state title.

"That's what I've pushed for all along and I think today was a big steppingstone toward that," she said.

sblackledge@dispatch.com

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