Even with just two seniors among its postseason competitors last fall, the Dublin Coffman girls cross country team came within two spots of advancing to the Division I state meet.
The Shamrocks' seventh-place finish at regional was a big step up from 2017 when they were 12th at that level, and all indications are that they could find themselves in a similar position this postseason.
In addition to returning five of its top seven runners, Coffman has brought back three other key competitors and has a group of other young runners who could be ready to burst onto the scene.
"Things are going pretty well so far," sixth-year coach Greg King said. "We have the usual ups and downs, but we look to be a pretty deep squad. ... It's likely we will have a lot of different runners in the top seven as the season progresses."
On Aug. 24 in the 12-team Panther Division race of the Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North, the Shamrocks placed eighth (167 points) behind champion Thomas Worthington (83) despite not having some of its expected top runners competing.
Junior Abigail Scherer, who finished 28th (20 minutes, 4.4 seconds) at regional last year to fall eight spots shy of a state berth, placed sixth (19:49.5) at the Pickerington Classic to lead the Shamrocks.
Sophomore Madeline Erwin, who was 32nd (20:18.3) at regional last season, also has returned from last year's postseason lineup, as have senior Emma Niswonger and sophomores Jaela Proper and Kasey Stammen.
Niswonger was 20th (20:41.4) at the Pickerington Classic.
Juniors Natalie Conrad and Claire Gibson and sophomore McKenna Leonard are other top returnees.
Freshman Olivia Oiler, who was the Shamrocks' No. 3 runner (27th, 21:00.7) at the Pickerington Classic, could have an immediate impact.
Others looking to contribute include junior Chika Hotta, sophomores Mackenzie Pritchard and Kendall Starr and freshmen Morgan Halli, Alexis Marsico, Bailey Morris and Ella Shepherd.
Boys runners out to strong start
After serving as an assistant the past five seasons, first-year boys cross country coach Joe DePalma hasn't changed much from a philosophical standpoint compared to his long-time predecessor in terms of preparing his team.
DePalma took over in the offseason for Chad Biegler, who retired after 39 seasons, and is being assisted by Kathryn Slaven, Coffman's boys track and field coach.
A St. Clairsville native and a teacher at Coffman, DePalma has been pleased with what he's seen so far.
"We've had a good start to the fall," DePalma said. "Chad did an amazing job as cross country coach for 39 years and since I was fortunate enough to coach with him, I learned a lot. ... The transition has been pretty smooth. The boys are working hard and we have a lot of younger, enthusiastic newcomers to the team that have helped with the dynamic. Our depth will be our strength."
DePalma believes there are "legitimately 15-20 runners" that could emerge as top-seven runners.
Last season, senior Alex Dediu finished third (16:08.7) at the OCC-Central Division meet and then placed 30th (17:33.4) at the Division I, district 2 meet to come up short of advancing to regional.
Senior Colin Gagne, who was the team's No. 2 runner at district last year with a 28th-place finish (17:30.7), and senior Noah Lowers, who was Coffman's No. 4 runner at district with a 49th-place finish (18:06.7), also are key returnees.
Junior Mitchell Yeater is another who saw extensive action last season, with seniors Ryan Hodge, Shaswat Rao and Jacob Rust, juniors Andy Clemens, Ryan Loynes and Dylan Segieth and sophomore Isaac Frank also returning.
Sophomores Noah Clemens and Tyler Holaday and freshmen Will McGraw and Liam Shaughnessy are others looking to make an impact.
On Aug. 24 in the Panther Division race of the Pickerington Classic, Coffman finished sixth (174) of 18 teams behind the champion and host Panthers (59). Dediu was sixth (16:14.2), followed by Shaughnessy (27th, 17:19.9), McGraw (40th, 17:34.9), Noah Clemens (46th, 17:48.5) and Rao (56th, 18:00.7).
Field hockey team looking at positives
In coach Jeff Goliver's first season last fall, the field hockey team more than doubled its win total from 2017 while producing a 7-10 overall finish.
The Shamrocks, who also improved by two wins in COFHL-West Division play while placing fifth at 3-5 behind champion Thomas Worthington (8-0), are focusing on their play rather than their record thus far this season.
Coffman was 0-4 overall before facing Bexley on Sept. 3 and is 0-3 in the league, but it endured closes league losses to Olentangy (5-3 on Aug. 19) and Olentangy Orange (3-2 on Aug. 28).
"We (had) a good preseason and think we can get stronger as the season progresses," Goliver said. "It's been a rough start to the season, but they have played really well in three of the games."
Seniors Mia Citino (defen-der) and Ava Scott (forward) have been among the team's leaders, according to Goliver.
Seniors Reese Collins (defender), Ashley Crotty (defender) and Emma Kruse (forward) and juniors Ellie Esterer (def ender) and Becca Saucier (defender) also are key returnees.
Rounding out the senior class are Lexi Dempsey (forward), Ella Haney (forward), Ainsley Hartman (forward), Jada Kleinholz (defender), Lydia Koehler (defender), Yashika Kuchanpally (defen-der), Ciara Littlefield (forward), Maddie Villella (forward) and Xiaocai Way (forward).
Freshman Tess Blankenhorn has taken over at goalkeeper, and sophomore forward Hannah Brooks is another looking to contribute.
"Several players have moved lines this year to try to come up with the right combinations," Goliver said. "We have a very special group of seniors who have just been amazing young people to coach over the last several years. They appreciated the senior leadership that we had last year from our three seniors and they want to grow on the foundation that was left to them as a legacy."
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 7 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 9 -- Golden Bear Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 11 -- OCC-Central at Darby Creek
Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Copley
*Sept. 10 -- At Hilliard Davidson
*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Davidson
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. UA
Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Wellington
Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Westland
*Sept. 10 -- At Marysville