Low numbers kept the Whetstone boys cross country team from scoring in many meets last season, but the Braves have seen a boost in that department this fall.
The next step, according to 27th-year coach Joe Monda, is closing the gap between juniors Matt Conroy and Thaine Nederveld and the rest of the 12-member roster.
"Thaine and (Conroy) are both returning two-time first-team all-City runners who both want to make the state meet," Monda said. "They are our leaders. Both have worked hard over the summer and it shows in the workouts."
The Braves opened Aug. 24 in the 11-team Baron Blast at Buckeye Valley, finishing sixth (161 points) behind champion Olentangy Liberty (23) as Nederveld placed eighth (17 minutes, 47.18 seconds) and Conroy was 14th (18:22.19).
Senior Hassan Sesay, who joined the team late last season, and sophomore Reed Wilson also are returnees for the Braves, who finished third (84) in the City League meet last season behind Centennial (60) and International (79).
Junior Eli Hinderer and freshmen Maitland Neff and Wyatt Starkie also have been among the team's top runners.
Others looking to contribute include senior Emmet Hess, juniors Julian Ackerman and Zach Castro and freshmen Isaak Jenkins and Patrick Knostman.
"Hassan has really looked strong in practice," Monda said. "With so many new runners this year, the success of the team will depend on how the newcomers grow into their roles."
Numbers also better for girls runners
The girls cross country team also has seen a boost in participation, beginning the season with 11 competitors.
Among them are senior Megan Sharp and juniors Micah Stromsoe-DeLorenzo and Olivia Cobbs, each of whom was a key runner last fall when the Braves finished second (51) in the City meet behind Northland (29).
"Micah, Megan and Olivia are the only returning runners on the girls side," Monda said. "All of them are working really hard. I would expect Megan and Micah to be our leaders most of the season."
Whetstone did not post a team score in the season-opening Baron Blast. Junior Mira Dush led the Braves with a 45th-place finish (24:50.82) while Combs, Stromsoe-DeLorenzo and Sharp also competed.
Also looking to contribute are senior Ella Payne, juniors Julian Calderone and Marisa Tayal and freshmen Ella Combs, Mia Kain, Olivia Koester and Anouk Moritz.
The Braves are hoping to challenge for the City title this season.
"It depends on the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh runners pushing each other and closing the gap on the frontrunners," Monda said.
Football team out to avenge loss to Bruins
The first of eight City League opponents on the football team's schedule is Briggs, which the Braves visit Friday, Sept. 6.
Whetstone has had the game circled since enduring one of its bigger disappointments last season, a 14-2 loss to the Bruins in Week 2.
"Nothing against Briggs, but last year we messed up," coach Tom Jones said. "We outrushed them (175-22)."
Both the Braves, who opened Aug. 30 against Watkins Memorial, and Briggs, which began its season the same night against Olentangy Berlin, went 3-7 last fall.
Whetstone, which lost its first four games last season before splitting its final six, has significantly more players than it did a year ago, while Briggs has been struggling with numbers and is "very sophomore and freshman heavy," according to Bruins coach Sean Zink.
"First thing with the numbers is that we're sitting at around 40 (players) instead of 18," Jones said. "Step one is to get the numbers up. The second thing is to set a standard of competition and accountability. We're doing grade checks. We've actually got a good senior class this year."
Sophomore David Martinez returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to seal the win last season for the Bruins, whose only other victories came against Africentric and West -- two teams that combined for one victory.
Martinez has returned at wingback and in the secondary for the Bruins, whose other top returnees on offense include seniors Johnny In (FB), Jaden Osborne (TE) and Mykeal Daniels (wingback).
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone cross country, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 5 -- Centennial at Raymond Memorial
*Sept. 10 -- City League match at TBA
*Sept. 10 -- At Beechcroft
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. West Lafayette Ridgewood
Sept. 10 -- At Mount Vernon
Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Independence
*Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Mifflin
*Sept. 11 -- At Northland
Sept. 7 -- At Emmanuel Christian with Toledo Rogers