Junior Illyaas Haji and senior Peyton Baker finished second and third, respectively, in the OCC-Capital Division meet to lead the Groveport Madison High School boys cross country team to a third-place finish Oct. 13 at Lancaster.

Haji finished in 17 minutes, 19.2 seconds and Baker finished in 17:30, as New Albany's Ethan McNichols won the title (17:03.1).

Groveport's No. 3 runner, sophomore Kaleb Wilson, placed eighth (17:47.8), as the Cruisers scored 62 points to finish behind New Albany (44) and Canal Winchester (51) and ahead of Newark (80) and Big Walnut (124).

"I am extremely happy with what we did," coach Vincent Gay said. "Our objective was to run hard and try to upset a few teams and challenge for the title. Our top three guys did a very nice job and our No. 4 and 5 guys ran good times for them. I can't ask for more."

Eli Jackson finished 24th (18:50.2) of 125 runners, followed by Jason Pinkston (26th, 18:50.9), David Neal (46th, 19:41.8) and Jacob Williams (59th, 20:20.8).

"We got (personal-record times) from Illyaas, Kaleb, Jason and David in our top seven," Gay said. "Overall, we had 13 runners and eight of them had PRs. It was a great meet, especially when you consider four of our top six runners are sophomores. I think we served notice that Groveport cross country is improving and that we're going to be tough to beat in the future."

Haji and Baker earned first-team all-league honors and Wilson made the second team.

The girls team has been battling injuries and did not field enough runners for a team score.

Junior Melanie Torres finished seventh (21:37.7) of 88 competitors to earn first-team all-league honors.

Also competing were Cherub Clarke (22nd, 23:06.3), Sophia Barros (30th, 23:44.8) and Aubrey Trissel (72nd, 27:52.6).

"Melanie ran great and I thought Cherub had a good race, too," Gay said. "The girls that ran gave it their all, but they're just lacking depth right now."

Both teams will compete in the Division I district meet Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Darby. The boys are in district 1, where the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to the regional meet Oct. 27 at Pickerington North, and the girls are in district 2, where the top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to regional.

Football team preps to play Wildcats

The football team realizes it has a tougher task this week when it plays at Big Walnut on Friday, Oct. 19, than it had in a 16-0 win over Newark on Oct. 12.

The Cruisers are hoping to return a handful of players from injury.

"We were banged up going into the Newark game and missing some bodies and then we had to use our emergency fullback, Allan Joyce, after losing a few guys during the game," coach Bryan Schoonover said. "I thought he did a real nice job stepping in there without any notice."

The Cruisers improved to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Capital with the win over Newark. That same night, Big Walnut fell to 3-5 overall and 2-1 in the league with a 41-7 loss to New Albany.

Groveport entered the game against Newark with a simple plan of basic offense and sturdy defense.

"It was raining and we just wanted to put things in the hands of our defense," Schoonover said. "We had snap issues and Newark's defense played very well. We'll have to play better against Big Walnut. They have tough, hard-nosed kids and are well-coached. But we're focusing on us. We need to improve and do the things we're capable of doing. We need to get the offense going. We can't expect the defense to pitch shutouts every week.

"Our defense was excellent against Newark. They all played well. I'd say Deahmi Guinn and Skylar Mouser had great games at linebacker, Jasiyah Robinson led us on the (defensive) line and John Motton and Esco Davis were strong in the (secondary)."

Jalil Underdown scored on runs of 72 and 4 yards and the Cruisers recorded a safety to take a 16-0 lead into halftime.

Big Walnut led New Albany 7-0 after the first quarter, but the Eagles scored 27 points in the second quarter and led 41-7 after three quarters. Big Walnut managed just 119 total yards, including 25 rushing on 26 carries.

Boys soccer team builds momentum

The boys soccer team was unbeaten in its final four games of the regular season.

Seeded 24th of 48 teams, Groveport played host to 34th-seeded Westland in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17. The winners play at second-seeded New Albany in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20.

Groveport lost to New Albany 3-0 on Sept. 25.

The second-round winner plays 11th-seeded Dublin Jerome, 40th-seeded Watterson or 46th-seeded Walnut Ridge in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 27.

The Cruisers defeated Licking Heights 3-0 on Sept. 29, Newark 4-1 on Oct. 2 and Whitehall 9-1 on Oct. 6 before closing the regular season Oct. 9 with a 2-all tie against Big Walnut to finish 2-2-1 in the OCC-Capital and enter the postseason at 8-5-3 overall.

Girls volleyball team falls to Indians

The 29th-seeded girls volleyball team finished 10-13 overall with a 25-20, 25-11, 25-22 loss to 33rd-seeded Canal Winchester in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15.

The Cruisers also lost to the Indians twice in OCC-Capital play, falling 25-15, 25-23, 26-24 on Sept. 6 and 25-22, 25-16, 25-21 on Oct. 2.

The Cruisers finished 2-8 in the OCC-Capital.

Season ends for girls soccer team

The 39th-seeded girls soccer team lost to 20th-seeded Westerville North 13-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15 to finish 4-14 overall.

The Cruisers finished 1-4 in the OCC-Capital to place fifth behind champion New Albany (5-0).

Golf season ends for Nanthavong

Senior Preston Nanthavong represented the boys golf team in the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley.

Making his third appearance at district, Nanthavong shot an 80 to tie for 33rd of 72 golfers. He carded a 40 on both the front nine and back nine.

The top two individuals not on the two qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.

"It wasn't a real good round for me, but I'm happy I got to end my career at district for the third time," said Nanthavong, who has committed to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "I really wanted to get to state and represent my school, but I wasn't able to put much together (Oct. 9)."

Nanthavong advanced to district by sharing medalist honors in a sectional Oct. 2 at Turnberry, where he shot a 72 to tie three others for the lowest score. The top four individuals not on one of the four qualifying teams advanced.

Also at sectional, freshman Price Cooper posted a 118 and junior Rickie Cooper shot a 126. The Cooper brothers were the only other members of the team this season, as the Cruisers did not post any team scores.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek