With his top runners back from last season, Westerville Central girls cross country coach Ryan Borland expects his team to contend for a trip to the Division I regional meet and possibly beyond.
Central last qualified for regional as a team in 2017, finishing 10th.
"We feel ... there are a lot of (teams) that have a realistic shot to make it in that top five (at regional) and get to state," Borland said. "A huge goal for our team is try to put ourselves in position to do that."
Junior Ashley Hockstok and sophomore Tara Will represented the Warhawks last season at regional. Will was 36th (20 minutes, 22.2 seconds) and Hockstok was 59th (20:51) of 133 runners, with the top 20 advancing to state.
Central opened by competing in the Hartford Twilight Invitational on Aug. 24, and Hockstok led the Warhawks by finishing ninth of 185 runners in a personal-best 19:46.2 while Will was 15th in 20:22.2.
"We have a really good group of girls that just came in and we're really excited," Hockstok said. "It's my favorite time of the year. We had a really good team effort (at Hartford) and a lot of us beat our times from last year. We showed a lot of improvement."
Also back are senior Ellie Mallon, who was 33rd (21:09.8), and senior Remington Schultz, who was 35th (21:16.5).
Freshman Rylee Mensel was 40th (21:32.8) and senior Kayla Jones was 43rd (21:44.4). A standout sprinter and middle-distance runner in track and field, Jones has returned to cross country after opting not to compete last season.
Also back are junior Lauryn Chapman, who was 49th (21:58.6) at Hartford, and junior Allyson Okonak, who was 80th (22:49).
Borland also expects senior Alyssa Focht to contribute.
"This is the most experienced group we've had in a few years," Borland said.
The Warhawks finished fourth (131) of 15 teams behind champion Granville (56).
"(Hartford) was a real cool meet," said Borland, who's in his 12th season. "It was a real good atmosphere and the kids had fun."
The boys return their lone regional qualifier from last season in junior Haden Fulkerson, who was 89th (17:44.5) of 127 runners.
Central opened by finishing eighth (174) of 20 teams in the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 24 at Pickerington North behind champion McDermott Northwest (104). Fulkerson was 18th of 295 runners in 17:38.5, and sophomore Chip Smith was 20th in 17:44.7.
"We're looking pretty good so far this year," Smith said. "We have a good, tight pack. We're doing a lot better than we did last year with our times based on the first meet of the year."
Sophomore Dominic Iquina was 25th (17:57.2), followed by junior Max Drexel (45th, 18:35.8), senior Joey Clegg (72nd, 19:07.9), junior Evan Radecki (75th, 19:08.5) and senior Jeremy Gellner (76th, 19:09.1).
Senior Ryan Kerrigan also should contribute.
"Our first program goal is to get our team back to regional," said 17th-year coach Jason Loughman, whose team last qualified for regional in 2011. "We've gotten individuals to regional, but we just haven't gotten our team to regional. That's one of our talking points throughout the past offseason and team camp."
Welty earns medalist honors at league event
Grace Welty led the girls golf team in the third round of the four-round OCC-Buckeye Division tournament Aug. 28 at Blacklick Woods, earning medalist honors with a 78.
Central finished second (377) behind Olentangy Liberty (353) and was second (11-4) behind the Patriots (15-0) heading into the final round Sept. 4 at Royal American.
Welty also earned medalist honors with a 78 in the first round Aug. 8 at New Albany Links.
"It means a lot to me," she said. "I work really hard on my golf game and when I medal it shows all my work has paid off. It's a great feeling."
Qian is medalist at league event
The boys golf team finished third (320) in the third round of OCC-Buckeye play Aug. 27 at Denison Golf Club behind first-place Liberty (312) as Josh Qian was medalist with a 71.
"It's a tough league with a lot of solid players," coach Kyle Baker said. "I'm proud of him, but he's still got a lot of room for improvement. He's hitting a bunch of greens, but not making enough putts and he'll attest to that."
Central is third (9-6) behind first-place Liberty (14-1) heading into the final round Wednesday, Sept. 11, at Darby Creek.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 7 -- Boys: Bruce Lerch Invitational at Brecksville-Broadview Heights
Sept. 7 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
Sept. 9 -- Golden Bear Invitational at Zanesville Country Club
Sept. 10 -- Westerville North and Westerville South at Medallion
Sept. 11 -- OCC-Buckeye at Darby Creek
Sept. 5 -- Grove City at Pinnacle
Sept. 10 -- Pickerington North at Pine Hill
Sept. 5 -- At Dublin Jerome
*Sept. 9 -- At Westerville North
*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Westerville North
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. South
Sept. 9 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 10 -- Home vs. Olentangy