The Olentangy High School boys and girls cross country teams both expect to return most of their top runners for next year, when they hope to extend their seasons and come closer to contending for OCC-Buckeye Division championships.

Five of the girls team's top seven runners to end the season are eligible to return, as are six of the top seven boys runners.

The girls advanced to the Division I regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North, finishing 11th (279 points) of 17 teams behind champion Granville (63). The top five teams advanced to state Nov. 4 at National Trail Raceway.

It was the team's fourth consecutive appearance at regional.

Expected returnees from the top seven include juniors Lex Brookshire and Gracie James, sophomores Meghan Boggess and Megan Schlabig and freshman Kaite Balthaser.

The boys season ended Oct. 21, when they finished seventh (197) of 16 teams in the district 3 meet at Watkins Memorial behind champion Liberty (49). The top six teams advanced to regional.

Boys runners who are eligible to return include juniors Caden Ehrhardt, Afton Freeman, Sam Holt and Carter Schaefer and sophomores Chandler Moyer and Mikey Worboy.

"I had an idea we would not have a front runner or top guy who would score a low point for us," boys coach Ken Whalen said. "What we did have were many quality good runners; we went about 12 to 14 deep."

None of the boys' top runners who are expected back will leave the program for Berlin when it opens next fall, according to Whalen, but he does expect to lose what he called "a decent amount of the sophomore and freshman classes."

"I expect our team to be 45-50 runners next fall," said Whalen, who had more than 70 runners this season.

Schaefer had the boys team's best time this season, a mark of 16 minutes, 52.5 seconds set at district. Senior Melina Endsley's time of 19:21.4 on Sept. 9 in the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial was the girls team's best time.

The girls placed third in the league meet Oct. 14 at Hilliard Darby, scoring 62 points to finish behind Liberty (36) and Orange (56) and ahead of Westerville Central (83), Westerville North (134) and Westerville South (174). The boys were fourth behind Liberty (31), Orange (46) and South (84) and ahead of Central (115) and North (172).

The girls were fourth (134) of 18 teams in district 3 behind champion Hilliard Davidson (25).

"I thought it was a very successful season," said girls coach Dwight Dewese, who expects his team to shrink from about 80 girls to around 30 because of the opening of Berlin. "The underclassmen did a nice job of molding with the upperclassmen into creating an exciting climate. I was very pleased with the way this team came together."

Boys soccer team had 'special connection'

The boys soccer team fell one win shy of its first Division I district championship since 2002, but coach Pat Shick still considered the season a success.

Olentangy went 11-4-5 overall, losing to Dublin Jerome 1-0 in a district final Oct. 28 at Westerville South.

"We could have won a few more regular-season games that ultimately ended in draws, but we also came from behind a few times to claim a (tie)," Shick said. "More than any tactical, functional style of play, our guys created an awesome environment where everyone was working hard for each other and everyone truly cared about each other. It is really fun to see young kids show so much emotion towards each other. There is a special connection among all the players that made coaching so much fun to be a part of."

The Braves finished fourth (1-1-3) in the OCC-Buckeye behind Liberty (4-0-1), Central (2-0-3) and South (2-2-1) and ahead of Orange (1-2-2) and North (0-5).

Seeded eighth for the 47-team district tournament, Olentangy went 3-0 at home to start the postseason. The Braves defeated 45th-seeded Marion Harding 12-1 on Oct. 18, 46th-seeded Whitehall 4-0 on Oct. 21 and ninth-seeded Pickerington North 1-0 in a semifinal Oct. 25 before falling to the third-seeded Celtics.

Senior midfielder Nick Miller was named first-team all-league and all-district and second-team all-state. Junior forward Matt Celona was first-team all-league and third-team all-district.

Senior defender Justin Rehklau was second-team all-league, senior defender Ryan Renner was special mention all-league and senior goalkeeper Trent Trees was honorable mention all-league.