Pickerington High School Central boys cross country coach Andy Fischer largely was pleased with how the Tigers began this season.
Led by senior Matt Scrape's win in 15 minutes, 24.6 seconds, Central finished third (100 points) in the 12-team Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 26 behind champion and host Pickerington North (85).
But Fischer remained cautiously optimistic as he recapped the day and looked forward to this season. He wants the real celebration to take place on that same course Oct. 28 after the Division I regional meet, when he hopes the Tigers will earn a second consecutive trip to state.
"We want to be an October-November team. That's where we want to peak. We don't want to be really good now and then fall off," said Fischer, who is in his 14th season. "I like what I've seen from our first guy to our 25th. They are working together and attacking goals. That is what you want to see."
Scrape was state runner-up last year as the Tigers finished eighth (216) behind champion Solon (79) as 20 teams scored. It was Central's first state appearance as a team since 2002.
Five of the top seven runners from a year ago return in Scrape and juniors Tyler Gunderson, Brayden Harlor, Jacob Jobe and Brady Johnson. Perhaps as an indicator of the team's depth, three underclassmen finished in the Tigers' top seven Aug. 26.
Rounding out Central's scoring were Johnson (fifth, 15:50.96), Gunderson (20th, 16:53.1), freshman Chase Balko (35th, 17:25.7) and sophomore Anthony Taranto (39th, 17:28.45). They were followed by Jobe (69th, 18:03.76) and freshman Josiah Adams (75th, 18:12.55).
"The younger guys and the older guys have mixed and I really think that the younger guys have some nice guys to grab a hold of and run with and train with," Fischer said. "From what I've seen so far, it seems to be paying dividends. Matt is a much different level of runner than a lot of guys in the area because of what he has accomplished. These guys see what he did as a freshman and a sophomore and where he is now. When (the younger guys) are unsure about their training, I remind them there is a process.
"Some of the younger guys really want to get after it and do a whole lot. They need to give themselves time to grow and develop."
Scrape said Aug. 25 he has not received any college scholarship offers, but has visits planned this month to Georgetown, Syracuse and Wisconsin.
Scrape was second (15:21.37) in the Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 2 at Hilliard Davidson, leading the Tigers to a third-place finish (76) out of 10 teams behind champion Centerville (51).
Other potential contributors include senior Connor McKiernan and freshmen Jacob Brown and Jordan Robertson.
Central also has designs on recapturing the OCC-Ohio Division championship. The Tigers and Gahanna both scored 56 points at last year's league meet but the Lions won on a sixth-runner tiebreaker to end Central's two-year title run.
Several key girls
The beginning of this season reminded girls cross country coach Hunter Nichols a lot of last year, although he hopes there will be one significant difference soon.
Expected top runner Lauren Marvin, a junior who finished 56th at state as a sophomore, broke her right foot in July and wore a walking boot to start the season. According to Nichols, the injury did not occur while Marvin was running.
Nichols, who is in his sixth season, hopes Marvin will be able to return by mid-September.
Last year, Central was without 2017 graduate Olivia Chapman for the entire season because of a stress fracture in her left foot.
"We are missing a key piece, but individually, they've been running great so far," Nichols said. "They're starting a minute or two ahead of where they were last year. It is not for a lack of effort, but we only have 18 girls on the roster and 16 were racing (Aug. 26), then we see teams like North with 65 kids and (Olentangy) Liberty with 80. Our kids are by themselves on some (practice) runs. It's tough. We graduated 10 or 11 seniors last year and only brought in three freshmen."
Other returnees include senior Amber Hamelin and junior Maddie Schmidt.
Central finished 10th (234) of 12 teams in the Panther Division of the Pickerington Classic behind champion Liberty (54). Scoring for the Tigers were Hamelin (12th, 19:37.68), Schmidt (29th, 20:34.15), freshman Grace Osborn (30th, 20:40.34) and juniors Sydney Hansen (155th, 23:55.01) and Sarah Murdock (160th, 23:59.79).
Other runners include seniors Olivia Droese and Anna Taylor, juniors Brea Douglas and Morgan Merritt, sophomore Haley Griggs and freshman Grace Vega.
Droese is the girls soccer team's starting goalkeeper.
"(Having Marvin back) will change the dynamic," Nichols said. "I want to see them at 21 (minutes) or just under 21. If that happens, we'll be all right. We'll be competitive and mixing it up."
The Tigers sent three runners to the Hot Summer Bash and did not score. Hamelin was 23rd (19:37.57), followed by Osborn (30th, 20:12.55) and Schmidt (50th, 21:11.7).
Central was second (54) in last year's league meet behind Gahanna (26).
Boys golfers sitting
fourth in league
The boys golf team finds itself among a top-heavy group in the OCC-Ohio entering the fourth and final round of the league tournament Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Turnberry.
Central is 9-6 in the league, fourth behind Gahanna (12-3), Grove City (11-4) and North (10-5) and ahead of Lancaster (3-12) and Reynoldsburg (0-15).
In the third round Aug. 30 at Clover Valley, Trey Blalock shot a 79 to lead the Tigers to a team score of 325 behind Grove City (319) and Gahanna (324) and ahead of North (328), Lancaster (366) and Reynoldsburg (374).
Also scoring for the Tigers were Aidan Allen (81), Jaden Thompson (82), Blake Bennett (83) and Calen Kovaleski (83).
Girls golfers continue
to show improvement
Three of the girls golf team's top four golfers have posted steadily lower scores in each of the first three rounds of the OCC-Ohio tournament, continuing their improvement under first-year coach Alecia Larsen.
In the third round Aug. 29 at Westchester, Miriah Gabel shot an 88 to lead the Tigers to a team score of 386. That tied Grove City for third place behind North (330) and Gahanna (333) and ahead of Big Walnut (393) and Lancaster (410), but Central edged the Greyhounds on the fifth-score tiebreaker with a 116 from Karlie Skaggs.
Other scorers were Leah Childers (92), Makenzie O'Neil (100) and Riley Stewart (106).
Childers, O'Neil and Stewart have lowered their scores in each round, and Gabel has shot an 88 each of the past two rounds after a 97 in the first round Aug. 9 at Royal American.
Entering the final round Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Mentel Memorial, Central is 5-8 in the league, fourth behind North (12-1), Gahanna (11-2) and Grove City (6-7) and ahead of Big Walnut (1-12) and Lancaster (0-5).
Aug. 26 -- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Sept. 2 -- Hot Summer Bash at Hilliard Davidson
Sept. 9 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
Sept. 16 -- Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park and Galion Cross Country Festival at Amann Reservoir
Sept. 23 -- Tiger Invitational at home
Sept. 30 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley
Oct. 7 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington
Oct. 14 -- OCC-Ohio at Lancaster
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys golf, girls golf, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 9 -- Grove City Invitational at Hickory Hills
Sept. 11 -- OCC Shootout at Moundbuilders
Sept. 13 -- OCC-Ohio at Turnberry
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Mentel Memorial
Sept. 13 -- Dublin Scioto at Safari
*Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Gahanna
Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 7 -- At Lancaster
*Sept. 12 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg