Coming off a sophomore season in which he advanced to the Division I state meet, Alex Dediu of the Dublin Coffman boys cross country team was looking for what he called a "breakout season" last fall.
Although he had some success during the regular season, it didn't materialize once the postseason arrived, as an injury and illness kept him from advancing past the district level.
Dediu believes he's gotten back on track for his senior season this fall, and the results from his first few meets support that.
"I wasn't able to make it past district last year," Dediu said. "This year has been more of a season of redemption."
Dediu won the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 7 at Watkins Memorial in 15 minutes, 51.45 seconds and followed up that performance by winning the Otterbein Invitational on Sept. 14 in 15:50.
Then in the Celtic Clash on Sept. 21 at Jerome, he ran 16:04.9 to finish runner-up behind the Celtics' Elliott Cook (15:52.5) as Coffman placed third (119 points) out of 24 teams, behind Chillicothe Unioto (44) and Hilliard Davidson (59).
Other top runners for Coffman have included junior Ryan Loynes, sophomores Noah Clemens, Isaac Frank and Kengo Hudson and freshmen Will McGraw and Liam Shaughnessy.
"Our top runner, Alex, has really started showing his potential," coach Joe DePalma said. "He's matured and taken the early part of the season to be a learning curve for the postseason and has been less focused on results and more focused on his progress. ... He's got goals in mind for the end of the season, but is also enjoying the ride."
As a sophomore, Dediu earned the final state berth at the regional meet at Pickerington North by placing 20th (16:25.82). He went on to finish 114th (17:02.9) at state.
Last season, he placed third (16:08.7) at the OCC-Central Division meet but struggled to a 30th-place finish (17:33.4) in the district 2 meet.
"Last year I had a different approach and was pretty fit for early-season meets, but by the end of the year, I had some IT band issues and wasn't able to compete past district," Dediu said.
"I had some knee pain early on but was able to mostly train through it. The week of district, I had the flu and had to race through that. It was a mix of bad timing and not taking care of myself."
After finishing seventh in the 1,600 meters at the state indoor track and field meet in March, Dediu's outdoor track season ended with a ninth-place finish in the same event at regional.
Dediu, who is hoping to run collegiately and is considering Brown University and Ohio State among his options, has continued to tweak his approach in hopes of not letting his final prep cross country season slip away.
He knows he's come a long way since first giving distance running a try in seventh grade after growing up playing soccer.
"The summer going into my eighth-grade year, I ran consistently and saw a huge change," Dediu said. "It's kind of a love-hate relationship with running. I never envisioned myself committing to the physical and mental challenge, but it's helped me on and off the track. It's a tough sport with a lot of discomfort each day, but it helps me.
"The courses have been playing into my style because I like the courses that throw in some trails and turns rather than like you're on a track. This past summer, I took it slower. I was more patient with my training and more focused on November. It's been a learning experience."
Girls runners hoping for better health
Injuries to several of its top competitors haven't kept the girls cross country team from being competitive.
On Sept. 21 in the Celtic Clash, the Shamrocks were sixth (151) out of 22 teams, behind champion Buckeye Valley (98).
Junior Abigail Scherer placed seventh (19:45) to lead Coffman, followed by senior Emma Niswonger (19th, 20:28.3), freshman Olivia Oiler (38th, 21:05.5), sophomore Madeline Erwin (41st, 21:12.1) and freshmen Alexis Marsico (46th, 21:22.1), Morgan Halli (53rd, 21:32.5) and Bailey Morris (61st, 21:48.1).
"We've had a lot of injuries and illness," coach Greg King said. "My Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 returning runners have all missed meets because of this. Three of them have missed most of the meets. All of them are getting healthy, so I'm still hopeful they'll be running by the postseason. Other than that, it's been a great season. We're deep, mostly with young runners. We have 18 runners who have broken 22:02, with only two seniors and four juniors."
Volleyball team gets milestone win
With a 25-13, 25-16, 25-23 victory over Upper Arlington on Sept. 17, the girls volleyball team won its 150th consecutive league match.
"We're super proud of keeping that tradition going," said senior Angel Barrett, who has seen time at outside hitter and libero.
The Shamrocks followed up a 25-16, 25-18, 25-14 league win over Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 19 with a 25-20, 25-11, 25-22 loss to Watterson on Sept. 23. They were 8-6 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Central before playing Westland on Sept. 24.
Coffman also played host to Park Hills (Kentucky) Notre Dame Academy on Sept. 25 and continues league play Thursday, Sept. 26, at home against Marysville.
The Shamrocks have just two seniors in Barrett and Sadie Brown (middle hitter/outside hitter) and feature freshmen Ella Durham (middle hitter/outside hitter), Leah Shumate (outside hitter/setter) and Annabelle Straty (defensive specialist) in key roles.
"We've faced a lot of challenges and it's still really early, but we've learned to come together as a team and play for each other and not be individuals," said Brown, who has committed to Jacksonville State.
"(The younger players) know their roles and they know they can be big scorers for our team. I need to take on a bigger role than last year."
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 28 -- At Kettering Fairmont
Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Hartley
*Oct. 2 -- At Olentangy Berlin
Sept. 28 -- Jerome Honorary Invitational at Country Club at Muirfield Village
Oct. 1 -- Division I sectional at Darby Creek. Top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Sept. 26 -- New Albany at New Albany Country Club
Oct. 2 -- Division I sectional at Blacklick Woods. Top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
*Sept. 26 -- At Marysville
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Wadsworth
Oct. 1 -- At Jerome
Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
Oct. 1 -- At Jerome
Sept. 26 -- At New Albany
*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Marysville. The Shamrocks beat the Monarchs 25-14, 25-22, 25-15 on Sept. 10.
Oct. 1 -- At Toledo St. Ursula