With five key runners expected to return, Whitehall-Yearling High School boys cross country coach Robert Taylor is optimistic about next season.

With five key runners expected to return, Whitehall-Yearling High School boys cross country coach Robert Taylor is optimistic about next season.

The Rams closed their season Oct. 24 in the Division I, district 2 meet at Watkins Memorial, finishing 10th (282) of 15 teams behind champion Hilliard Bradley (49) as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North.

Sophomores Fillimon Weldemelak and Efrem Gebreambes competed for the top spot on the team throughout the season, with Weldemelak emerging as the No. 1 runner by season's end.

Weldemelak was 29th at district in 17 minutes, 2.27 seconds and Gebreambes was 47th in 17:28.71.

Also competing at district were senior Michael Thompson (64th, 18:10.59), freshman Chris Charles (67th, 18:18.45), junior Tamagne Shiferaw (77th, 18:48.73), senior Dazion Huot (82nd, 19:08.8) and junior Natnael Dessa (91st, 19:39).

"We're going to start (next) year in a good spot," Taylor said. "We're going to have experienced, good runners at the top at the beginning. As long as they're ready to come back healthy, we should be able to pick up right where we left off and go forward from there."

Competing in Division I for the third consecutive year, Taylor said the Rams are becoming more accustomed to running against the top teams in the area.

"Our kids are more confident now," he said. "They realize these guys are really good, but we belong on the same course with these guys. We can compete. The growth is really nice to see. We're proud of the work they put in. A lot of them are ready for next year. They have goals and plans."

Taylor called finishing second in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 24 at London a highlight of the season, and he hopes his team can again contend for the league title next fall.

"They want to win that league meet next year," Taylor said. "(Columbus) Academy has a lot kids coming back too, so it will be a dogfight."

Whitehall finished second (65) behind Academy (30) and ahead of Bexley (75), Grandview (89), Worthington Christian (123) and London (152). Weldemelak was fifth in 17:13, followed by Gebreambes (seventh, 17:32) and Shiferaw (ninth, 17:37).

Weldemelak and Gebreambes were first-team all-league and Shiferaw was second-team all-league.

Other runners in the league meet were Thompson (19th, 18:11), Charles (25th, 18:37), Huot (29th, 18:44) and junior Kevin Diaz (30th, 18:52).

Also eligible to return is junior Jessie Hendricks.

Girls runners 'drastically improved'

First-year girls cross country coach Gabriela Ivoska said her team showed steady progress throughout the season.

"Our girls drastically improved their times," Ivoska said. "With all the hard work and commitment, they saw that when you put the time into it, it obviously pays off in the end."

Whitehall finished 12th (359) of 12 teams in the district 1 race behind champion Olentangy Liberty (41).

Jackie Bravo led the Rams, finishing 70th in 26:27.86. She was followed by sophomore Paula Wilson (74th, 28:00.09), freshman Heaven Fikes (75th, 28:13.21), sophomore Hannah Wright (78th, 29:11.41) and senior Cheyenne Peterman (81st, 30:56.25).

Whitehall finished fifth (141) in the league meet behind Bexley (30), Academy (45), Grandview (72) and London (94). Bravo was 26th (26:46), followed by Wilson (27th, 26:53), Peterman (30th, 28:23), senior Claudia Fuentes (31st, 28:44) and Fikes (33rd, 30:06).

After not having enough runners to score as a team for most of last season, the Rams added depth this year.

"I'm looking forward to next season and I'm very happy and proud of our girls for this season, too," Ivoska said.

Football team ends season with win

The football team closed its season on a four-game winning streak, capped by a 28-7 victory Oct. 31 at Fisher Catholic.

The Rams finished 6-4 overall and 12th in the Division III, Region 9 computer ratings. The top eight teams qualified for the postseason.

"It was a nice way to end the season," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "We won four in a row. We struggled a little bit early (against Fisher Catholic), but our kids pulled together and got ourselves four in a row and had a winning season."

Whitehall rushed for 223 yards and outgained Fisher Catholic 348-49.

Earl Redman rushed for 155 yards on 13 carries, including touchdowns of 87 and 12 yards, and quarterback DeShante Vaughn threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Hopkins and added a 6-yard touchdown run. Vaughn completed nine of 15 passes for 125 yards with one interception.

Whitehall went 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio to finish third behind co-champions Bexley (5-1) and Grandview (5-1) and ahead of West Jefferson (3-3), London (2-4), Academy (1-5) and Madison Plains (1-5).

School prepares for winter season

The school will hold a pep rally Friday, Nov. 6, to help introduce its winter athletes.

The free event will begin at 6:45 p.m. and conclude at about 9 p.m., and will include music, contests and dancing.

For more information, contact athletics director Bill Hughett at 417-5118.