Brady Johnson of the Pickerington High School Central boys cross country team missed the first three meets of this season because of an Achilles' tendon injury, but the senior seems to be rounding back into form at the best time.
The senior finished third in 16 minutes, 26.4 seconds in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster, leading the Tigers to 54 points and a second-place finish behind Gahanna (41) and ahead of Pickerington North (56), Lancaster (68), Reynoldsburg (147) and Grove City (189).
Johnson finished behind North's Matt Duvall (first, 15:56.5) and Harper Moore (second, 16:25.2). As of last week, Duvall, Moore and Johnson had the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-best times of the season, respectively, in the area.
"I'm pretty satisfied. I wanted to get up there (to) second or third, but I knew Harper and Matt were really good," Johnson said. "I was expecting to be somewhere from third to first, but overall I thought the race was pretty good."
Johnson is hoping to lead Central to its second Division I state meet appearance in three seasons, a journey that starts Saturday, Oct. 20, when the Tigers participate in the district 3 meet at Hilliard Darby. The top six teams and top 24 individuals advance to the regional meet Oct. 27 at North.
Johnson finished 36th at state with the team as a sophomore and 40th last year when he qualified as an individual.
Also scoring for the Tigers were Jacob Jobe (sixth, 16:52.7), Chase Balko (11th, 17:12.8), Tyler Gunderson (12th, 17:13) and Jailen Willis (22nd, 17:31.7).
"We really had a good day," Johnson said. "Jacob ran really well. Really, everybody ended up running really good races. We're excited (for the postseason)."
Lauren Marvin (20:05.9) and Grace Osborn (20:08.1) of the girls team placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in the league meet to lead Central to 67 points and a third-place finish behind Lancaster (42) and Gahanna (49) and ahead of North (98), Reynoldsburg (126) and Grove City (159).
Also scoring were Maddie Schmidt (12th, 20:46.4), Emily Green (21st, 21:45) and Brenna Todd (23rd, 21:51.4).
It was the first time Marvin, who made state individually as a sophomore and finished 56th, led the team in a 3.1-mile race this season.
"This was actually my season(-best time) by about 20 seconds," Marvin said. "I just feel like we've been training really hard specifically for postseason this year and so I feel like all of our hard work is paying off right now."
The Tigers will compete in district 1 at Darby, seeking their fourth consecutive trip to regional as a team. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance.
Volleyball team wins elusive league title
The girls volleyball team closed out OCC-Ohio play with five consecutive wins to capture a share of the league championship, its first title since 1993.
Central won its final two league matches last week, defeating Grove City 12-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-20 on Oct. 9 and Gahanna 25-23, 23-25, 25-17, 25-17 on Oct. 11. The Tigers and Greyhounds both went 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio, one match ahead of third-place Gahanna.
Central began the Division I district tournament with a 25-15, 26-24, 25-16 win over visiting and 38th-seeded Reynoldsburg in a first-round match Oct. 15. The Tigers, who are seeded sixth of 49 teams, were 20-3 overall before playing host to 14th-seeded Hamilton Township in the second round Oct. 17.
The winner plays eighth-seeded Watterson or 16th-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Whitehall. The district final is Oct. 27.
The Tigers also defeated Gahanna 23-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-21 on Sept. 25.
Girls soccer team heads into tourney
A 6-1 loss to Gahanna on Oct. 9 snapped the girls soccer team's five-game winning streak, but coach Maria Manzo still liked her team's chances as the Division I district tournament began.
Seeded 17th of 44 teams, Central edged 28th-seeded Lancaster 2-1 in a first-round game Oct. 15 at North. The game was to have been played at Central but was moved to North because the Tigers' home field was unplayable.
Central finished 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio and closed the regular season with a 6-1 loss at Hilliard Davidson on Oct. 11.
"Everybody is healthy and we haven't had that at this point in the season recently," Manzo said. "We aren't having to move people around and we're playing to our abilities. The direct result of that is we've been able to win some games and string some wins together. We're pretty excited."
Central will return to North to play 19th-seeded Grove City in the second round Thursday, Oct. 18.
That winner takes on second-seeded North or 18th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 27.
The Tigers lost to North 2-0 on Sept. 13 but defeated Grove City 4-1 on Oct. 2.
Boys team entered tourney on high note
The boys soccer team began postseason play after going 2-0-1 in its final three regular-season games.
Seeded 28th of 48 teams, Central sandwiched wins over Independence (1-0 on Oct. 4) and Westland (2-1 on Oct. 11) around a 2-all tie at Gahanna on Oct. 9. The Tigers were 5-8-3 overall before playing at 26th-seeded Mount Vernon on Oct. 17 in the first round of the Division I district tournament and finished 0-3-2 in the OCC-Ohio.
The first-round winner visits 12th-seeded Darby in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20. That winner plays top-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 23rd-seeded Delaware or 41st-seeded Whetstone in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 27.
Boys golf season ends at district
The boys golf team expects to return four of its top five players after finishing ninth in the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Apple Valley, including its top three scorers in the event.
Sophomores Jaden Thompson (78) and Blake Bennett (80) and freshman Carter Woodward (82) led the Tigers to a team score of 325, ninth behind champion Dublin Jerome (293) as 12 teams scored. The top two teams and top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
"We just didn't play the last four or five holes too well, but I am really, really proud of the way the guys played all season," said coach Chris Cores, whose team was making its first district appearance since 2010. "Those guys have continued to get better and better. Carter stepped in as a freshman and this will be a great building block for him moving forward."
Also scoring for Central was senior Trey Blalock (85). Sophomore Aidan Allen shot an 89.
"Trey's been a big leader for our program, a four-year letterman," Cores said. "He's just been dynamite for us and certainly will be missed.
"The future is bright and we've got some other nice players as well. We're definitely excited about what the future holds, but also know Trey's got some big shoes we've got to fill."
St. Charles (309) earned the second state berth.
Bennett earned OCC-Ohio Player of the Year honors, averaging 75.25 during the four rounds of the league tournament and becoming the first Tiger to earn that honor since Junichi Hayashi in 1996.
Tennis players fall at district
Both of the girls tennis team's doubles pairings drew tough opening-round opponents in the Division I district tournament Oct. 11 at Reynoldsburg, and although neither of them came out with a win, coach Kelli Rings is not disappointed with the season.
Senior Sophie Culver and sophomore Ella Culver lost to defending state champions Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly of Liberty 6-1, 6-0, and senior Rachel Terbovich and sophomore Semmie Moore fell to Upper Arlington's Evelyn Holman and Wendy Shi 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
Holman and Shi, whom Moore and Terbovich led 5-2 in the first set, were state qualifiers a year ago.
"They have nothing to hang their heads about. Getting to district was a bonus and we came and fought," Rings said. "Sophie and Ella didn't have a good draw, but they played well. Rachel and Semmie stayed in the fight as well. After they dropped the first set, sometimes that's enough to push you over the edge, but they stayed in it and kept fighting for every point and every game."
Central finished 15-6 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio, second behind North (5-0). Three other players are expected to return in juniors Talia DiLello and Ashleigh Gilligan and freshman Khandice Thomas, each of whom played singles during the postseason.