For coach Anne Horton and her Columbus Academy field hockey team, a certain date from 2017 continues to be a focus as the season progresses.
The Vikings lost to Thomas Worthington 1-0 in the state final Nov. 4 to fall short of their ultimate goal.
"We have an experienced group of kids," Horton said. "These girls have been motivated since Nov. 4 of last year's state championship. We had a good summer, we had a good camp. The kids are pretty organized in their thoughts of how they want to see the season play out, so they're just working on sustaining their passion and keeping it focused on day-to-day. I've liked what I've seen."
Academy had yet to allow a goal entering the week, as it was 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-East Division before playing Hartley on Sept. 11.
The Vikings, who finished 18-3 overall last year, play host to Thomas on Sept. 26 in what they hope is the first of two meetings this season. They're seeking their 11th state title, with the last one coming in 2013.
Junior goalkeeper Alex Phelps has helped spark Academy's strong start, earning shutouts in five of the first six games. Sophomore goalie Marin Henry earned the win in a 9-0 victory over Granville on Sept. 5, avenging a 1-0 loss to the Blue Aces last season.
Academy is seeking the COFHL-East title after finishing second (7-1) behind Granville (8-0) last fall.
"The kids are supporting each other," said Horton, who is in her 28th season. "They've done a nice job of re-establishing possession and making those good decisions on transition. We've seen a common theme that teams have struggled to get to goal against us this year."
Senior attacker Avie Smith scored three goals against Granville. Senior attackers Carolyn Bowman and Mercedes Crestanello and sophomore midfielder Regan Cornelius each added two.
Senior attacker Callista Popp scored three goals in a 5-0 win over Shaker Heights on Sept. 1, and sophomore attacker Caroline Adams scored two goals in a 6-0 win over Worthington Kilbourne on Aug. 29.
Cornelius also is competing in cross country.
Cross country teams feature experience
The boys and girls cross country teams have returned several runners who competed in the Division III state meet last season, but fourth-year coach Denny Hammond said the squads still have room for improvement.
"We have a lot of work to do," he said. "It's going to be a work in progress with this group."
For the boys, the top returnees are sophomore Luke Nester (30th at state, 16 minutes, 44.2 seconds), seniors Liam McCann (82nd, 17:17.9) and Abhi Ramesh (124th, 17:54.4) and junior Charlie Sabgir (133rd, 18:12.8).
Other key runners have been senior Robbie Simpson, juniors Alex O'Connor and Charlie Yaw, sophomores Jake Huddleston and Calvin Wade and freshman Peter Heermann.
"Our boys are going to be all right," Hammond said. "Our gap just has to get better. We have four guys who ran in the state meet back, so that helps a lot. They really worked hard this summer. We really put miles in and they've done everything I've asked of them."
The Vikings opened the season in the Newark Catholic Invitational on Aug. 25 at Bryn Du Mansion. Nester was seventh of 182 runners in 17:01.8, followed by McCann (eighth, 17:03.1) and Sabgir (34th, 18:22.5).
Academy won the 19-team Division III race in the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 8 at Watkins Memorial with 60 points, ahead of runner-up Elyria Catholic (102), as McCann finished first in 17:16.18.
Last season at state, Academy (144) finished third behind East Canton (120) and McDonald (140) in the 20-team race.
Junior Annalise Grammel and Cornelius have returned to lead the girls team. Last season, Grammel earned all-state honors by placing 17th (19:19.2) in the state meet while Cornelius was 44th (20:05.9).
Also back are seniors Ryan Milbourne and Maddie Tuckerman and junior Rachel Raque. All were regional competitors last season.
Other key runners are junior Grace Harrison and freshmen Janet Li and Madeline Proctor.
Grammel finished first (19:43.4) of 154 runners in the Newark Catholic Invitational. Cornelius placed fourth (20:24.3) and Tuckerman was 33rd (22:41.7).
Grammel also won the McGowan Invitational in 20:31.8 as Academy finished eighth (196) of 15 teams behind champion Centerburg (82).
"Annalise and Regan are running real well," Hammond said. "Those two girls are the leaders of our group."
Football team prepares for longtime rival
For the school's student body, it's simply known as "Bexley week."
The football team will continue its rivalry with the Lions when the squads meet Friday, Sept. 14, at Academy in the MSL-Ohio opener.
"We're excited for our rivals (this) week when we play Bexley," coach Robin Miller said. "Records are irrelevant in a rivalry game. They'll be ready. They'll bring a nice crowd out and it will be exciting. It doesn't matter what happened in weeks past or what happened last year, it's a new game between two teams that really don't like each other that much."
The Vikings defeated Bexley 38-7 last season, ending a four-game losing streak in the series.
After dropping its opener at Cincinnati Wyoming 42-14 on Aug. 24, Academy beat Linden-McKinley 51-6 on Aug. 31 and defeated Newark Catholic 16-14 on Sept. 8. Miller said the victory over the Green Wave was the program's first win at White Field in Newark.
"It's a place where our high school has never won before, so it felt good to get that monkey off our back," Miller said. "That's a good team. They are going to win some games. Coach (Ryan) Aiello is doing a really good job."
Carter Warstler rushed for 146 yards on 18 carries and added 53 yards receiving to lead Academy. He had a 20-yard touchdown run and caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Brady Hess to help the Vikings take a 16-7 lead by halftime.
Bexley fell to 1-2 with a 41-7 loss to Hamilton Township on Sept. 7. It defeated Campbell Memorial 16-0 on Aug. 31 to end a 12-game losing streak.
The Lions managed just 99 total yards against Hamilton Township. Running back Antonio Truss led the offense with 33 yards rushing on 14 carries and two receptions for 13 yards.
"The score was a little bit lopsided, but that was a good team they lost to," Miller said. "Bexley did some good things. They have some guys who are playing awfully hard. They have a good scheme for the type of kids they have. They weren't able to put it together, but it won't be easy (for us on) Friday."
Below are the coming schedules for the Columbus Academy cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Grandview Invitational
Sept. 13 -- At Olentangy Liberty
*Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 18 -- MSL-Ohio postseason tournament at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Wellington
*Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Wellington
Sept. 17 -- At Hartley
Sept. 13 -- At Dublin Jerome
*Sept. 17 -- At Wellington
*Sept. 13 -- At Grandview
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls and Northridge