Olentangy boys cross country coach Ken Whalen momentarily was upset about his team's seventh-place finish in the season-opening Hartford Twilight Invitational on Aug. 24 at Hartford Fairgrounds, until he put it in perspective.
With a mostly new top seven after the Braves graduated last year's top two runners, including Division I state qualifier Sam Holt, Olentangy found itself just three points out of fifth place. The Braves scored 156 points to finish in the middle of the 13-team pack as Orange won (53). Orange was ranked 13th in the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches' Division I preseason poll, and two more teams in the field, Chillicothe Unioto and Heath, were ranked sixth and fourth in Division II and placed third and fourth, respectively, at Hartford.
"That was a loaded field, but we survived," said Whalen, who is in his fifth season. "If nothing else, the guys know we can be competitive and it was a good reminder that one or two points can make a big difference in a meet.
"Considering that we lost our top two kids in Carter (Schaefer) and (Holt, who finished 45th at state), arguably two of the top runners to come through here in the past 20 years, I like where we are."
In the opener, senior Mikey Worboy was fourth in 16 minutes, 19 seconds, ahead of sophomore Luke Galloway (24th, 16:56.5), senior Chandler Moyer (35th, 17:15.2), sophomore Taye Gonzalez (47th, 17:30.4) and senior Patrick Schirtzinger (52nd, 17:38.8).
Worboy consistently was the Braves' No. 3 runner last year behind Holt and Schaefer.
"Mikey has a lot of confidence coming off a huge track season (in which he was on the regional-qualifying 3,200-meter relay)," Whalen said. "His goal is to train for state, and making state around here is a heck of a feat."
Other expected contributors include juniors Johan Rosgaard and Preston Smith, sophomores Nate Karr and David Moore and freshmen Nick Hart, Tommy Richards and Jackson Shultz.
The girls team also is reloading after the graduation of three-time state qualifier Lex Brookshire, who finished 24th there last year.
Olentangy returned just two of its top seven runners in senior Hannah Moore and junior Jessica Morris.
Led by freshman Cara Wilson's 27th-place performance in 20:54.1, the Braves finished 11th (254) of 15 teams at Hartford as Granville won (56). Also scoring were Moore (50th, 21:59.7), freshman Aspen Carson (74th, 22:42), Morris (84th, 22:54.4) and freshman Camryn Cummings (86th, 23:01.7).
"I don't think we've been this young in at least 10 years, maybe more," 17th-year coach Dwight Dewese said. "It's a group of girls that genuinely gets along and enjoys working together. Four girls ran their best times (at Hartford) and another 10 or 11 are ahead of where they were last year. I'm kind of excited to see how far they can go."
According to Dewese, other girls who will vie for time in the top 10 include junior Olivia DiGiovine, sophomores Anna McGrath and Sophia Pasquale and freshman Anushka Maharana.
Field hockey team starts fast
The experienced field hockey team won its first three games, nearly matching its win total from last year.
Olentangy was 3-1 overall before playing New Albany on Sept. 4 and is 1-1 in the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division.
The Braves return their top two scorers from last year in senior forwards Ciara Szer-encsits and Anna Barstow, who had six and four goals, respectively, as the team went 5-10-1 overall and 3-5 in the league. But neither had a goal through four games, which according to sixth-year coach Biz Brehm is evidence of how well the team is working together.
"We put in the work last year and we are seeing the results," Brehm said. "A lot of them played in the offseason together, so the more they play together, the better they will get. That makes a difference. It is paying off."
Freshman forward Sage Parker had three goals through four games, just ahead of senior forwards Rachel Kickbusch and Maddie Richeson. Freshman midfielder Reagan Richeson assisted on four of the team's first seven goals.
Olentangy opened Aug. 19 with a 5-3 league win at Dublin Coffman and then won two 1-0 games, Aug. 22 at Granville and Aug. 26 in its home opener against Columbus School for Girls before falling to visiting Liberty 2-1 in league play Aug. 28.
Other top returnees include seniors Megan Arline (defen-der), Molly Sawyer (midfielder) and Karlie Severance (defender) and junior Dani Beidelman (goalie).
Rounding out the roster are seniors Riley Doyle (mid-fielder/defender), Fernanda Loyola (forward), Maddi Martin (goalie) and Gabby Sasso (defender), junior Stephanie Gravely (defender), sophomores Grace Bartley (defen-der), Megan Miller (midfielder) and Alex Walters (midfielder) and freshman Georgia Dudon (midfielder).
Golfers wrapping up OCC-Buckeye play
Bennett Zeitner's round of 72 led the boys golf team to a score of 325 in the third round of the OCC-Buckeye tournament Aug. 27 at Denison Golf Club.
Olentangy placed fourth in the round behind Liberty (312), Orange (315) and Westerville Central (320) and ahead of Westerville South (386) and Westerville North (392). The Braves are 6-9 in the league entering the fourth and final round Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Darby Creek, behind Liberty (14-1), Orange (13-2) and Central (9-6) and ahead of North (2-13) and South (1-14).
Zeitner was followed by Tyler Phillips (80), Braeden Gulley (84) and Ben Wilch (89).
The girls team was 10-5 in the OCC-Buckeye, behind Liberty (15-0) and Central (11-4) and ahead of South (4-11), North (3-12) and Orange (2-13), entering the final round Sept. 4 at Royal American.
Lauren Sommerfeld shot a 90 in the third round Aug. 28 at Blacklick Woods to lead the Braves to third place (399) behind Liberty (353) and Central (377) and ahead of North (489), Orange (497) and South (506). Also competing were Olivia Drankwalter (96), Sam Horton (97) and Tessa Baker and Claudia Novak, both of whom shot 116.
Below are the coming schedules for the Olentangy cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 — Boys: McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 11 — Home vs. Upper Arlington
Sept. 7 — St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 11 — OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek
Sept. 5 — Berlin at Oakhaven
Sept. 9 — Hilliard Davidson at The Ridge
Sept. 5 — Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*Sept. 10 — At Westerville South
Sept. 5 — At DeSales
Sept. 7 — Home vs. Scioto
*Sept. 10 — Home vs. Westerville North
Sept. 10 — Home vs. Dublin Jerome
Sept. 11 — Home vs. Pickerington North
*Sept. 5 — Home vs. Westerville North
Sept. 7 — At Ashland
*Sept. 10 — At Westerville Central