Sydney Hansen of the Pickerington High School Central girls cross country team has a goal time in mind for the OCC-Ohio Division meet Saturday, Oct. 13, at Lancaster.
"I want to do better than last year," said Hansen, a senior who placed 37th in the league meet last season in 23 minutes, 28.81 seconds. "Lancaster is not exactly a best-time kind of course. I just want to make sure I am running with as many girls from my team as possible."
For his part, coach Hunter Nichols doesn't care whether any of his runners set a personal-best time or finish in 30 minutes. All he wants is for the Tigers, who finished third in last year's league meet, to further challenge Gahanna and Lancaster, the first- and second-place teams from a year ago.
"I think it will definitely be between Lancaster and Gahanna again, but if we break out a little bit, I think we could hang with them," Nichols said. "The thing I've been trying to do is get it in the girls' heads that this weekend isn't about time. If you run 25 minutes and that's what it takes to win, then great. I want to go in there and mix it up with those (top two) teams and see what happens."
Hansen has been part of a consistent top six rounded out by Emily Green, Lauren Marvin, Grace Osborn, Maddie Schmidt and Brenna Todd. Osborn was the Tigers' top runner in each of their first six races and owns the team's best time of the season, 19:50.75, which she ran during the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 1 at Hilliard Davidson.
Nichols' primary concern is that times have not decreased throughout the season like he hoped. Osborn's run at Davidson is the team's only sub-20 minute time on a 3.1-mile course this season.
Marvin ran 12:08.4 to finish 10th in the Backwoods 2-Mile on Oct. 3 at Thornville Sheridan, a meet in which Central was participating for the first time.
"It's the eighth year for that meet and we've never gone. I thought it might be something to shake us out of our routine," Nichols said. "It just seems like we've hit a plateau and haven't dropped times all that much. I'm not sure why. We have a good group. We have tough runners. We just haven't dropped like I want to see."
Osborn, a sophomore, credited Marvin, a senior, for some of her success atop the lineup.
"Lauren encourages me to push myself," Osborn said. "She'll surge and I'll surge. She's been to state (in 2016). She knows what it takes to be a high-level runner."
Central scored 92 points in last year's league meet to finish third behind Gahanna (26) and Lancaster (47) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (106), Pickerington North (118) and Grove City (149).
The boys team was third (69) behind North (36) and Lancaster (48) and ahead of Gahanna (88), Grove City (151) and Reynoldsburg (166). Individual champion Matt Scrape (15:42.46) now runs at Syracuse, but senior Brady Johnson placed third (16:08.57).
Blalock led boys golfers to district
Trey Blalock of the boys golf team insisted he did not have any personal goals entering a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Turnberry, but was more focused on the team returning to district after a lengthy absence.
Thanks in part to Blalock's round of 73, Central did exactly that.
The Tigers shot a 307 as a team to finish third behind champion Olentangy Liberty (303) as 13 teams scored and earned their first district berth as a team since 2010. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
"I didn't have any goals. I felt like I expected a 72 or 73, maybe a 71 if I turned it on, but I'll take this," said Blalock, who shot a 38 on the front nine and 35 on the back. "This is like a milestone. We've always been close. I was close individually as a freshman. We came pretty close last year as a team. This feels really good."
Also scoring for Central were Blake Bennett (75), Jaden Thompson (77) and Aidan Allen (82). Carter Woodward shot an 89.
The Tigers had not been represented at district since Rodney Howell qualified as an individual in 2013.
Gahanna (304) and North (311) also qualified for district, from which the top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Doubles teams advance to district
The doubles teams of Ella Culver and Sophie Culver and Semmie Moore and Rachel Terbovich will represent the girls tennis team in the Division I district tournament Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg.
Terbovich and Moore went 3-1 in Central's home sectional that concluded Oct. 6, defeating the Culver sisters 6-2, 6-1 in the third-place match. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Also competing but failing to advance were singles players Khandice Thomas (1-1), Talia DiLello (0-1) and Ashleigh Gilligan (0-1).
At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Central finished the regular season at 15-6, defeating Davidson 4-1 on Oct. 2.
Girls golf season ends at sectional
The girls golf team's season came to an end Oct. 2 in a Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial, six shots shy of advancing to district.
Junior Miriah Gabel shot an 85 to lead Central, which shot 377 as a team and finished fifth behind champion Upper Arlington (319) as 11 teams scored. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Dublin Coffman (333) and DeSales (372) qualified as teams. The Stallions edged Gahanna on a fifth-score tiebreaker.
Also scoring for the Tigers were sophomore Leah Childers (96), freshman Ella Drake (96) and sophomore Riley Stewart (100). Freshman Jenna Saythongphet shot a 119.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 13 -- OCC-Ohio meet at Lancaster
Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Westland
Oct. 17 -- At 26th-seeded Mount Vernon in first round of Division I district tournament. The Tigers are seeded 28th.
Oct. 11 -- At Hilliard Davidson
Oct. 15 -- Home vs. 28th-seeded Lancaster in first round of Division I district tournament. The Tigers are seeded 17th.
*Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Gahanna. The Tigers defeated the Lions 23-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-21 on Sept. 25.
Oct. 15 -- Home vs. 38th-seeded Reynoldsburg in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 14th-seeded Hamilton Township or 35th-seeded Whetstone in second round Oct. 17 at home of higher seed. The Tigers are seeded sixth.