As the new-look Westerville Central High School girls cross country team continues to gain momentum, coach Ryan Borland hopes his runners are ready to peak in the postseason.
The Warhawks will compete in the OCC-Buckeye Division meet Saturday, Oct. 13, at Hilliard Davidson.
Central would like to beat out its Westerville rivals while also challenging the three Olentangy programs.
"We're a much different team because you can't replace the kids that we lost the last two years, but they've developed their own sense of who they are and where they fit in to the tradition and history of the program," Borland said. "We're more of a pack team."
Last season, the Warhawks finished fourth (83 points) in the league meet behind champion Olentangy Liberty (36) and ahead of North (134) and South (174).
Central was led by 2018 graduates McKenna Fry (fourth, 19 minutes, 21.73 seconds), Sydney Kapral (sixth, 19:27.12) and Chloe Ey (14th, 20:22.2), leaving Borland with a big void to fill.
Seven underclassmen have emerged as the team's top runners, led by freshman Tara Will. She paced Central in the Backwoods Two-Miler on Oct. 3 at Thornville Sheridan, finishing ninth of 221 runners in 12:06.6 as the Warhawks were third (129) of 24 teams behind Granville (18) and Pickerington Central (115).
Will also competes on the junior varsity soccer team and has had to juggle her commitments this season, but Borland was hoping she would train and compete solely with his team as the soccer season winds down.
"Tara is starting to assert herself as a frontrunner for us, but she's so young," Borland said. "She's not ready to run with the top dogs out there, but she's making progress each week that we get her out."
Sophomore Lauryn Chapman was 23rd (12:49.2) at Sheridan, followed by sophomore Ashley Hockstok (24th, 12:52.7), juniors Ellie Mallon (39th, 13:20.8) and Remington Schultz (42nd, 13:24.2) and sophomore Kennedy Callow (47th, 13:33.6).
Junior Caroline Cable and senior Mya Delaney also have contributed.
"Our team is a lot different than what we've had before because obviously we lost our top runners, but all the people have done a good job of stepping up and taking their places," Schultz said. "We don't necessarily have as good of runners as we had before, but we have a stronger pack time, so that's really good. We also have a really good team atmosphere this year."
Borland said his team's performance in the Celtic Clash on Sept. 22 at Dublin Jerome was another highlight this season. Central finished third (84) of nine teams behind Jonathan Alder (49) and Olentangy Berlin (63).
Will was fifth (19:42.5) of 81 runners, followed by Hockstok (sixth, 19:49.4), Schultz (19th, 20:45), Chapman (26th, 21:00.1), Mallon (28th, 21:05.4), Cable (31st, 21:27.4) and Callow (48th, 22:27.8).
"Our girls really ran well and we showed if we can run like that at the right time we'll have a good shot to meet some of our late-season goals as far as getting to the regional meet again," Borland said.
Hockstok (leg) and Schultz (hip) are nearing 100 percent after battling early season injuries, according to Borland.
Central will compete in the Division I district meet Oct. 20 at Hilliard Darby.
The boys team finished fifth (115) in the league meet last season, behind champion Liberty (31) and ahead of North (172). South finished third (84).
Junior Jacob Owens is the top returnee from that meet, as he finished 29th (17:57.93) of 59 runners.
The Warhawks finished fifth (192) of 23 teams in the Backwoods Two-Miler behind champion Sheridan (61). Sophomore Haden Fulkerson was 21st (10:33.9), followed by Chip Smith (26th, 10:46.5), Owens (38th, 10:51.2), Dominic Iquina (51st, 10:57.4), Max Drexel (59th, 11:04.6), Jeremy Gellner (68th, 11:13.7) and Danny Gubser (69th, 11:14).
Tennis player qualifies for district
Sophomore girls tennis player Levi Burks earned her first Division I district berth by placing third at sectional Oct. 5 and 6 at Hilliard Bradley.
Burks, who was seeded fourth, lost to top-seeded Nicole Santoso of Dublin Scioto 2-6, 7-6, 6-1 in a semifinal. Burks then defeated Liberty's Anna Gardner 6-2, 7-6 in the third-place match.
"I wanted to make it to district and possibly to state," Burks said. "Last year helped me a lot. It let me get a lot more experience while playing high school tennis."
Burks went 2-1 at sectional last season, falling one win shy of qualifying for district.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles at sectional advanced to district Thursday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 13, at Reynoldsburg. At district, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to state Oct. 19 and 20 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Boys golf team competes at district
The boys golf team competed in the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.
The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
The Warhawks earned the district berth by finishing third (311) in a 13-team sectional Oct. 2 at Darby Creek behind champion Dublin Coffman (300). The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced.
Josh Qian led the Warhawks with a 74, followed by Mwangi Kihara (75), Ryan Dollenmayer (80), Quinn Gallagher (82) and Cory Blankenship (84).
"I'm very proud of the way the boys played (at sectional) and how they grinded through the tough conditions," coach Kyle Baker said. "We didn't start out very well, but the boys continued to grind and kept a positive attitude. This resulted in our best nine-hole score of the year, which was a 146 on the back nine. It shows a lot of maturity for such a young group."
Girls golf team concludes season
The girls golf team closed its season by finishing ninth (393) in an 11-team Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Westchester behind champion New Albany (302).
The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Junior Grace Welty led Central with an 85, followed by junior Anna Borders (99), sophomores Zoei Tee (103) and Katelyn Neil (106) and senior Makiyah Brown (109).
"It was a tough one," coach Aaron Starkey said. "As a team, we weren't necessarily close to getting out. We went in with the expectation that it was going to be a challenge for us to get out as a team. ... It's a tough sport, but they don't have anything to hang their heads about."
Welty finished with an 83 average in OCC-Buckeye play and was first-team all-league. Neil had a 95.8 average and was second-team all-league, and Borders had a 101.8 average and was honorable mention all-league.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Whitehall
Oct. 17 -- Home vs. 44th-seeded Newark in first round of Division I district tournament. The Warhawks are seeded eighth.
Oct. 18 -- Home vs. 34th-seeded Watkins Memorial in second round of Division I district tournament. The Warhawks are seeded 15th.
*Oct. 11 -- Home vs. Westerville South. The Warhawks defeated the Wildcats 29-27, 25-14, 25-20 on Sept. 25.
Oct. 18 -- At seventh-seeded Grove City or home vs. 42nd-seeded Columbus West in second round of Division I district tournament. The Warhawks are seeded 20th.