Westland High School cross country coach Josh Barkeloo always has stressed the importance of positive traits that go beyond how a runner performs during a meet.
Barkeloo, who is in his 12th season, said no one represents those characteristics better than senior Kevin Reyes.
Reyes' dedication and commitment -- to athletics and the school -- have made him a leader for a relatively young boys team. He and fellow senior Billy Holland have been the Cougars' top performers this season, and both are hoping to finish strong.
"(Reyes is) a fantastic representative of everything that is great at Westland High School," Barkeloo said. "I wish that we had a school full of him."
The Cougars competed in the Arrowhead Invitational on Sept. 19 at Whetstone, finishing eighth (164 points) of 15 teams behind champion Watterson (39) as Holland was 22nd (19 minutes, 47.3 seconds) of 146 runners and Reyes was 24th (19:57.9).
Reyes and Holland have developed a strong friendship, which has led to them pushing each other to improve. Reyes is in his second full season on the team but will compete in his fourth season on the track and field team in the spring.
"I didn't do as well as I expected (at Whetstone), but my teammate, Billy, ended up passing me and I was really proud of him," Reyes said. "We always try to compete against each other in a friendly way. We always try to push each other."
Sophomore Christian Placencia was 29th (20:10.8), followed by sophomore Drew Hutchinson (38th, 20:49.3) and junior Conor Milligan (69th, 22:48.1).
Westland ran in the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic on Sept. 29 at London Country Club and competes in the Backwoods Two-Miler on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at Thornville Sheridan. The Cougars then will compete in the OCC-Central Division meet Oct. 13 at Hilliard Davidson in preparation of the Division I district meet Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
Reyes has lofty goals as he winds down his cross country career.
"My goal is not only for me as an individual, but as a team, I expect to go to regional as a team," he said. "Since this is my senior year, I really hope to accomplish that. It would mean a lot because I've always enjoyed running and knowing that I'm able to get into the higher level of running would mean so much to me."
Last season, he finished 71st at district in a personal-best 18:24.44.
"He's definitely running smarter this year," Barkeloo said. "He's more consistent. He was inconsistent last year. I attribute that to he didn't have as many races in, so the more you race, the more experience you have."
Nathans continues to lead girls team
Senior Aja Nathans continues to lead the girls cross country team.
She was 12th (22:42.8) of 94 runners at Whetstone as the Cougars finished fourth (122) of six teams behind champion Centerburg (17).
"Aja has been our No. 1 all year," Barkeloo said. She's been a model of consistency."
Also competing at Whetstone were Jordyn Anderson (20th, 24:55.7), Allison Chapin (48th, 27:56.6), Bethony Fay (53rd, 28:03.9) and Maya Suarez (69th, 30:12.9).
"The girls have been gradually improving," Barkeloo said. "We've seen a great amount of growth out of some of our younger runners and a lot of consistency out of older runners. We just have to try to keep everybody healthy and make sure that we can get five on the line for district."
Football team to play Marysville
The football team plays host to Marysville on Friday, Oct. 5, after opening OCC-Central play Sept. 28 against Upper Arlington.
The Monarchs were 3-2 before opening league play Sept. 28 against Dublin Coffman. Entering the game, Marysville was seventh in Division I, Region 2. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
Last season, the Monarchs defeated Westland 27-6 to take a 5-1 lead in the series. The Cougars won 42-28 in 2015.
Westland lost to visiting Olentangy Orange 41-12 on Sept. 21 to fall to 1-4. Peterson Iresne rushed for 114 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries, and DeShawn Evans completed 15 of 33 passes for 159 yards and a score.
"We expected to compete a little bit better than we did and I don't think we did a very good job of handling our emotion in the first half as far as being able to stay composed and execute," coach Rick Rios said. "We didn't execute very well at all."
Through five games, Evans had completed 101 of 178 passes for 1,236 yards with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Iresne had rushed for 392 yards and five touchdowns on 75 carries, Anthony Widen had 29 receptions for 393 yards and six touchdowns and Robert Clark had 38 catches for 329 yards and three scores.
Westland will look to contain a Marysville offense that was averaging 29 points before playing Coffman, including big performances in wins over Grove City (35-0 on Sept. 14) and Big Walnut (45-17 on Sept. 21).
Marysville finished with 383 total yards, including 366 rushing, against Big Walnut. Ryan Kern led a balanced attack with 95 yards, followed by Owen Meffley and Mike Powers with 75 apiece.
Below are the coming schedules for the Westland cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 3 -- Backwoods Two-Miler at Thornville Sheridan
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
*Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Lancaster
*Oct. 2 -- At Davidson
Oct. 6 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*Oct. 1 -- At Central Crossing
Oct. 2 -- At Lancaster
Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Grandview
*Oct. 2 -- At Dublin Coffman. The Cougars lost to the Shamrocks 25-7, 25-7, 25-7 on Sept. 6.
*Oct. 4 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington. The Cougars lost to the Golden Bears 25-7, 25-10, 25-14 on Sept. 13.