The girls side of the Upper Arlington High School cross country program has been its strength for the past several years, but the boys have made strides toward forming their own identity.

Coach Scott Meyers has the numbers to back it up.

Drastic improvements from a veteran lineup have the Golden Bears hopeful they can make noise in the OCC-Central Division meet Saturday, Oct. 14, at Hilliard Darby, as well as in the coming postseason.

"In comparison against the past two seasons, we are typically about 90 seconds faster per race as a team," Meyers said. "I never thought the team would have a top-five average below 17 minutes. ... I could not be more pleased with the overall progression of the team so far. We have surpassed all of my season expectations, and we still have a few weeks left in the season."

Juniors Thomas Richter and Jack Amling have been UA's first and second runners, respectively, all season, ahead of a pack that includes juniors Drew Paxton, Cole Smith and Nathaniel Swords and sophomores Benjamin Crespo, Daniel Owens and Will Reynolds.

Richter's time of 16 minutes, 25.15 seconds in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Sept. 30 at Darby is the team's best mark of the season.

"I expected Thomas to start the season off as our No. 1 runner and then I fully expected Jack Amling to close the gap as the season (went) on," Meyers said. "Thomas is the type of athlete that does everything to make himself better. He is very easy to coach because I know he doesn't miss a beat. I fully expect him and Jack to be running side-by-side come (league) and district (meet) time. Jack typically gets better as the season goes on."

Meyers broke down times for races UA has run each of the past three seasons - the season-opening Pickerington Classic on Aug. 26 at Pickerington North, the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 9 at Watkins Memorial and the Midwest Meet of Champions, and found considerable time drops at each for the team's top five runners. The biggest drop was 1:25 at the Midwest Meet of Champions, from 18:03 last year to 16:48.

The Bears dropped 1:24 at North (18:56 to 17:32) and 1:11 at Watkins Memorial (18:23 to 17:12).

"I never thought the team would have a top-five average below 17 minutes," Meyers said.

This is the first season UA has had separate coaches for the boys and girls teams since 1984.

Meyers was Division I state runner-up in 2005 as a senior at Beavercreek and later ran at Ohio University.

Girls coach Latisha Wilder had overseen both the boys and girls teams the past four years, as had Dale Hartney for 29 years before that. Hartney coached UA's boys from 1977-2013 and took over the girls team in 1985.

The boys team will try to improve on last year's fifth-place finish in the OCC-Central meet, and the girls will try for their first league championship since 2013.

The boys scored 130 points in last year's league meet to finish behind Hilliard Davidson (29), Dublin Coffman (36), Central Crossing (80) and Marysville (86) and ahead of Westland (187).

The girls placed second (60) in the league last year, behind Davidson (31) and ahead of Marysville (68), Coffman (81) and Central Crossing (148).

Tennis players set for district

Singles player Masha Manilchuk and both doubles pairings will represent the girls tennis team in the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Bradley and Saturday, Oct. 14, at UA.

Manilchuk was seeded third in the Bears' home sectional held Oct. 6 and 7 and went 3-2 and finished fourth, losing to Olentangy Liberty's Alexis Brengartner 6-1, 6-1 in the third-place match.

Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi were seeded fourth in doubles but finished third, defeating third-seeded teammates Ella Hazelbaker and Noah Mizer 6-4, 4-4, retired in the third-place match.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.

Also competing at sectional but failing to advance were singles players Lily Goldberg (2-1) and Sarah Marti (1-1).

At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament Oct. 20 and 21 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

Boys soccer team likes progress

Boys soccer coach Kevin Donovan thought the team's 20th seed for the coming 47-team Division I district tournament was appropriate, given that the Bears started 0-5 but were 5-7-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the OCC-Central heading into their regular-season finale Oct. 10 at Coffman.

"Given our record, I think it's where we should be," Donovan said. "We were 0-6 against the top 12 seeds and everyone else, we've played much better against. We think we can beat anybody on any given day, but you are what your record says you are."

UA will begin the postseason at home, playing host to 29th-seeded Westland in a first-round game Wednesday, Oct. 18. The Bears defeated the Cougars 2-1 in OCC-Central play Sept. 26.

The winner will visit ninth-seeded Pickerington North for a second-round game Oct. 21.

UA was 3-0-1 in its previous four games before playing Coffman. Last week, the Bears tied Kilbourne at 2 on Oct. 3 as Ryan Burke and Nathan Hellstedt scored and Pete Edwards made three saves.

"You score a few goals in a match and guys think they can score," Donovan said. "We weren't scoring early against pretty good teams. We started taking more chances and, when you do that, you win more games. We don't talk much about our opponent, we just talk about us. What we weren't doing well was getting a ton of chances. Early on, we weren't doing that. That's the big difference right now."

Girls golfers cruise to district

Emily Hummer's round of 69 led the girls golf team to a 21-shot victory in a Division I sectional Oct. 3 at Westchester.

Hummer placed second of 55 golfers, one shot behind medalist Morgan Pankow of New Albany.

UA shot a 307 as a team to finish well ahead of runner-up New Albany (328) and third-place Pickerington North (347) as 11 teams scored.

The top three teams advanced to the district tournament Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.

Also scoring for the Bears, who are seeking their second consecutive state berth, were Julia Rabadam (77), Lizzie Murray (80) and Maddie Frank (81).

At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Gray Course.

Balance leads boys golfers to district

Matt Cramer and Quinn Patterson each shot a 75 and Dane Goodwin added a 77 as the boys golf team finished second (311) in a Division I sectional Oct. 3 at Clover Valley, behind St. Charles (300) as 12 teams scored.

Cole Muldoon added an 84 for UA, as the top four teams qualified for the district tournament Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.

New Albany (319) and Coffman (328) also advanced.

At district, the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 20 and 21 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington field hockey, girls soccer, girls volleyball and boys water polo teams:

FIELD HOCKEY

Oct. 17 -- Home vs. ninth-seeded Olentangy Orange in second round of district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded seventh.

GIRLS SOCCER

Oct. 16 -- Home vs. 30th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in first round of Division I district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded 13th.

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Oct. 12 -- Home vs. Big Walnut

Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 22nd-seeded Hilliard Bradley in first round of Division I district tournament. The Golden Bears are seeded 17th.

BOYS WATER POLO

Oct. 13-14 -- Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer Tournament