C.J. Patrick has battled injuries since setting the program-record time for the Central Crossing High School boys cross country team two seasons ago.
The senior endured a hip injury last year and has battled a bad back this fall as he looks to improve on his record time of 16 minutes, 16.77 seconds, which was set during the OCC-Central Division meet at Hilliard Darby in 2015.
The league meet returns to Darby on Saturday, Oct. 14, giving Patrick reason for optimism.
"My back is feeling pretty good now, and I have been running some good times," Patrick said. "My best time this year is 17:16 (on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial), so I can cut from that if I stay healthy. I'll be cutting time and tapering so I can have a chance at (the program record).
"I hurt my back at the end of basketball season from jumping a lot and overworking it. I stopped my core training late in track (and field season) because it felt really good and I didn't want it to take away from what I would do in the postseason. Then (the back pain) came back and was bothering me early in the (cross country) season."
As a sophomore, Patrick became the program's first Division I regional qualifier since 2012. He finished 63rd (17:02.1) at Pickerington North, but did not advance to state. Last season, he finished 22nd (16:56.16) in the district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial as the top 20 individuals advanced to regional.
"His hip and his back have been problems for C.J. in the past two seasons, but he has always been a focused individual," coach Doug Boggs said. "When it comes down to a workout, he narrows it down to what needs to be done and he hits the numbers. He's very competitive and consistent, and the only thing that has been holding him back has been the injuries."
Patrick started running in the seventh grade, joining his twin brother Greg. Tired of finishing in the middle of the pack, he decided to work harder.
"I hated to run to be honest with you," said Patrick, who wants to compete at the next level but has not made a college choice. "But my brother did it and I thought it would be easier to do it with him.
"I was not very good, and I was tired of getting sixth and seventh (place) every race so I started to train every night between my seventh- and eighth-grade years, running two miles like a race. I ended up going from a 6:40 to a 5:10 over that summer."
Patrick likes to get out quickly during a race to prevent him from being bogged down in the middle of the pack.
"For the first mile, I start really fast because I want to get out," he said. "Most of the time, if you start too slow you will get caught up in the pack, so I try to get out fast and then coast in the second mile. In the third mile I try to catch each person one by one then in like the last 600 (meters), it's just an all-out sprint."
The Comets competed Oct. 7 in the Darby Dash, a two-mile event to help the runners prepare for the league meet. Darby is a flat course that is meant to help teams build confidence going into the district meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial.
"I like Darby because it's fast, but running it two weeks in a row can be tough on some of the runners," Boggs said. "When you go two weeks in a row on a fast course then the next week (on a new course) when they hear their split is slower after a mile, then it can have an effect on their running. We tell them it will be slower, but it still has an effect on them."
Boys golf team begins postseason
Caleb Davern represented the boys golf team in the Division I district tournament Oct. 10 at Apple Valley, with the top two individuals not on qualifying teams advancing to state Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Davern qualified for district by shooting a 78 in a sectional Oct. 3 at Turnberry. Medalist Connor Curry (71) of Mount Vernon also advanced as an individual, along with Westerville South's Troy Taylor (77) and Granville's Coury Rodger (78).
Davern, a junior, became the program's first state qualifier as a freshman, when he tied for fifth with a two-round total of 152. He did not advance to state last season.
The Comets finished ninth (358) of 12 teams at Turnberry behind district-qualifiers Olentangy Liberty (304), Gahanna (308), Olentangy Orange (311) and Thomas Worthington (328).
Brandon VonIns (88), Cole Jamison (91), Jackson Phillips (101) and Cole Spencer (103) also competed.
Tennis team ends season at sectional
The girls tennis team had its season end in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 6 and 7 at Reynoldsburg.
Junior Emma Bachman went 1-1 in singles, and senior Alexa Smetanko and junior Evelyn Pauquette both were 0-1. In doubles, juniors Alana Smith and Alexis Young were 1-1, and junior Alyssa Doudna and sophomore Madison Wallner went 0-1.
The Comets finished 4-12 overall and were fifth (1-4) in the OCC-Central behind Upper Arlington (5-0), Dublin Coffman (4-1), Marysville (3-2) and Hilliard Davidson (2-3) and ahead of Westland (0-5).
Central Crossing was led by first-year coach Lauren Hendricks.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 12 -- At Grove City Christian
Oct. 18 -- Home vs. 40th-seeded Whetstone in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at top-seeded Olentangy Liberty in second round Oct. 21. The Comets are seeded 32nd.
Oct. 16 -- At 19th-seeded Delaware in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at 16th-seeded Marysville in second round Oct. 19. The Comets are seeded 21st.
Oct. 17 -- At sixth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 14th-seeded Marysville or 16th-seeded Grove City in second round Oct. 19 at home of better seed. The Comets are seeded 46th.