The DeSales boys and girls cross country teams both returned their top runners from last year, including senior and Division II regional qualifier John Shoemaker, but fifth-year coach Ben McGinnis thinks this season's fortunes might be determined by an influx of younger runners.
A combined six freshmen placed in both teams' top seven at the season-opening Newark Catholic Invitational on Aug. 24 at Bryn Du Mansion in Granville, including the girls' lead runner in Josie Dages.
"We have tons of new energy and drive on the team," McGinnis said. "Our goals for the team are shared between coaches and runners. For the boys, it's to learn how to race. They are very young but have tremendous energy and stamina. They are learning how to race a high school (3.1-mile race), so the more experiences the better for them.
"For the girls, they are more experienced but are learning how to see the race as much as an offensive battle as a race against the clock. The boys are learning to run wisely and the girls are learning to run aggressively."
At Granville, Shoemaker was eighth in 17 minutes, 13.6 seconds to lead the boys, who scored 183 points to finish sixth of 20 teams as Fredericktown won (112). Also scoring were freshmen Owen Weikert (32nd, 18:27.3), Aidan Shannon (42nd, 18:44.7), Adam Weithman (43rd, 18:47.5) and Brendan Lackey (58th, 19:08.7).
Dages was 16th (21:49.5) to lead the girls, who scored 173 points to place sixth of 16 teams behind champion Fairfield Union (69). She was followed by junior Bre Callahan (27th, 22:18.5), sophomore Audrey Callahan (35th, 22:35.6), senior Cate Leithauser (64th, 23:59.7) and sophomore Monica Sullivan (65th, 24:11.7).
Callahan is the defending CCL champion.
Shoemaker is coming off a season in which he was runner-up at the league meet, seventh at district and 43rd at regional. He was 15 spots and 14.7 seconds shy of advancing to state.
"We are looking for big things from John," McGinnis said. "Our goal is to get the boys around him for another state run together. He's a great leader, quiet and stoic, and has earned a great senior season."
The girls team is seeking its second CCL championship in three years after finishing second (53) at last year's league meet behind Watterson (30). The boys finished third (64) in the league for the second consecutive year as St. Charles (28) won its 12th consecutive CCL title and 19th in 20 seasons.
Other boys expected to contribute include senior Nico Cadena, juniors Isaac Rush, Isaiah Rush and Aiden Williams and sophomore Eric Michitsch.
Junior Hannah Pekarcik also returns for the girls team and is among a group challenging for top-seven spots that also includes sophomore Monica Sullivan and freshmen Kirsten Kelley and Ellie Reash.
According to McGinnis, the program has a total of 40 runners, evenly split between the boys and girls teams.
Girls golfers remain 'consistent'
The girls golf team enters a month full of nine-hole matches hoping for more of what comprised a successful August.
DeSales won the Mid-Ohio Girls Golf League tournament Aug. 12 at Champions with a score of 375, finishing ahead of Licking Valley (454), Centerburg (498), the Stallions' B team (524) and Licking Valley B (540). Two days later in the CCL preseason tournament at NorthStar, the Stallions shot a program-record 18-hole score of 340 to finish first ahead of Watterson (386), Hartley (407) and Ready (457).
"We've been really, really consistent," coach Charlie Mitchell said. "We do not necessarily have that girl who will score really low, but we have three or four girls who are just solid and dependable. You won't see us have a lot of medalists. Our success is simply based on having a solid core of players we can trust every time out."
Amanda Pancake owned the team's best nine-hole score entering the week, as she shot a 39 on Aug. 15 at Royal American against Westerville North.
Paige Verfurth's 82 in the CCL preseason tournament is the Stallions' best 18-hole mark this year.
DeSales was scheduled to play 10 nine-hole matches in September, seven of which are on its home course of NorthStar. The Stallions will not play another 18-hole tournament until a Division I sectional Oct. 1.
The boys team will try to work its way up the CCL standings during the league's postseason tournament Sept. 22 at Denison Golf Club. The Stallions finished fourth (353) in the preseason tournament Aug. 15 at Apple Valley behind St. Charles (289), Watterson (302) and Hartley (330).
St. Charles is seeking its 12th consecutive CCL champ-ionship.
Football team facing Celtics for first time
On its way to a 5-5 finish last fall, the football team played two opponents for the first time and defeated both.
Four of the 10 opponents on the Stallions’ schedule this season are programs they’ve never faced, including each of their first three.
DeSales visits Dublin Jerome on Friday, Sept. 6, after opening with a 35-28 win over Dayton Carroll in the Backyard Blitz on Aug. 31 at Huber Heights Wayne.
Against Carroll, Quintell Quinn ran for 75 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries, Owen Faulkner had eight catches for 138 yards and Kole Perrine had three receptions for 128 yards and two scores.
Jerome also went 5-5 last season but is a Division I program and represents the largest opponent in terms of enrollment on the Stallions’ schedule.
The Celtics opened Aug. 30 with a 34-3 win over Central Crossing.
Coach Ryan Wiggins understands that navigating a schedule that presents more uncertainty adds to his team’s challenge of making it back to the playoffs after not qualifying the past two seasons.
“Usually we’ve crossed paths with just about everybody that we play, but this year we’re playing Dayton Carroll, Dublin Jerome, Notre Dame Cathedral-Latin (Sept. 13) out of the North Coast League, (Middletown) Bishop Fenwick (Sept. 27),” Wiggins said. “Every single game is a fight to win in my view. The reality is that there’s a fine line and we’re not spoiled with ‘we’re going to be in’ (the playoffs). They know they have to make their way in.”
Jerome won four of its last five games last season and went 28-15 over coach Bob Gecewich’s first four seasons.
The Celtics entered the season with junior Ryan Miller at quarterback after he completed 74 of 122 passes for 991 yards with six touchdowns last season, but nearly all of the other key skill position players from a year ago graduated.
Jerome returns a more experienced defense, with senior middle linebacker Dominic Nardone leading the way.
DeSales’ opener marked the return of senior quarterback Reno Godfrey, who missed the final five games last season because of injury.
“Having him back is nice,” Wiggins said. “He’s hungry to play.”
-- Jarrod Ulrey
Below are the coming schedules for the DeSales cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- Red, White and Blue Classic at Carnegie Mellon
Sept. 5 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 7 -- Worthington Christian Invitational at Turnberry
Sept. 10 -- Hartley at Champions
Sept. 11 -- Watterson at Darby Creek
Sept. 5 -- Lakewood at Harbor Hills in makeup from Aug. 27
Sept. 9 -- Delaware at NorthStar
Sept. 10 -- Lakewood at NorthStar
Sept. 11 -- Watterson at NorthStar
Sept. 5 -- At Worthington Kilbourne
*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. St. Charles
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Olentangy
Sept. 10 -- At Bexley
Sept. 5 -- Bloom-Carroll at Woodward Park
Sept. 9 -- At Canal Winchester
*Sept. 10 -- Ready at Woodward Park
Sept. 11 -- Hilliard Bradley at Park of Roses
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Ready
*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Hartley