Zubin Jha continues to pace the Thomas Worthington boys cross country team.

The senior placed fifth of 234 runners in Saturday Night Lights on Sept. 21 at Centerville in 15 minutes, 34 seconds to lead the Cardinals, who finished 12th (341 points) of 23 teams, behind champion Peninsula Woodridge (100).

"He has really come into his own as a runner," coach Bill Darling said. "He's physically grown, matured and just believed in himself and gotten better every year. He's always been a big contributor for us, but this year he's become the leader of the program."

Also scoring at Saturday Night Lights were Noah Silliman (61st, 16:39.5), Nate Johnson (105th, 17:07.5), Owen Jones (123rd, 17:16.3) and Jack Caine (125th, 17:18.1).

"Nate is still working his way back up (from a foot injury in the spring)," Darling said. "We believe in him. We think he's going to get back up there and be special for us.

"(Jack) is one of those guys that's the heart and soul of this team. He's not the most talented guy, but he's been very, very good and been very consistent for us and we needed that out of him this year."

Jha also led the Cardinals in the Spartan Elite race at the Spartan Invitational in East Lansing, Michigan, on Sept. 13, placing eighth (16:10.5) out of 347 runners.

Johnson (59th, 17:15.7, 59th) and Silliman (60th, 17:16.4) were next for Thomas, which finished eighth (341) of 40 schools as Brighton (Michigan) won (120). Among the teams that finished ahead of the Cardinals were Beavercreek (fourth, 228), Fremont (fifth, 243) and Hilliard Davidson (sixth, 276).

"It's one of the best races around, so we're really happy with that finish," Darling said. "We finished behind a couple of Ohio schools. I would have liked to have been a little closer to them."

Thomas doesn't compete again until it plays host to the Les Eisenhart Invitational on Oct. 5. It then will turn its attention to the OCC-Cardinal Division meet and the postseason.

"We'd like to be an OCC champion again," Darling said. "Kilbourne got us last year and the kids did not like that very much. So, we're hoping to win the conference championship and then we're hoping to be one of the five schools that gets a ticket out to be able to run at the state championships."

Miller, Napoleon leading girls runners

Lydia Miller and Carina Napoleon have led the girls cross country team this season.

Miller placed 19th (18:26.3) out of 253 runners and Napoleon was 28th (18:35.3) as the Cardinals finished 22nd (466) of 27 teams at Saturday Night Lights, behind champion Davidson (128).

"(Miller) has really come on strong and worked extremely hard," coach Andy Cox said. "Her and Carina are pushing each other and it's been positive. They talk to each other during the race and encourage each other. It's been fun to watch this year."

Cox hopes to get Morgan Edwards back within the next few weeks. She's been out with what he described as "a lower-body injury."

"I think that'll be a big help for us," Cox said. "She was about 20 to 30 seconds behind Carina and that'll really help in the postseason."

Also scoring at Centerville were Abby Moulton (158th, 20:53), Hadley Kulina (171st, 21:04.1) and Raiva Jha (177th, 21:09.5).

"We're actually pretty young," Cox said. "We've got quite a few freshmen that are either running varsity or on the verge of running varsity. So, any experience we can get with our younger athletes in these big meets is going to help us, not just in this year, but in the years to come."

Miller finished second (19:06.7) of 331 runners and Napoleon was eighth (19:38.8) in the Green Division race of the Spartan Invitational to lead the Cardinals, who placed third (179) of 37 teams as Caledonia (Michigan) won (146).

Injuries plaguing girls volleyball team

The girls volleyball team faced a difficult challenge heading into the season after losing eight players from a year ago to graduation. But inexperience has not been the Cardinals' biggest hurdle this season.

"It's definitely a building year for us," coach Natalie Walter said. "We've got young players and we've been riddled with injuries the last couple of weeks. We've had to dig into our bench and move people around."

The Cardinals have four players out of action in Grace Matthews (broken foot), Alayna Johnson (concussion), Alice Kolwicz (torn ACL) and Ava Hamm (concussion).

Thomas forced a fifth set after losing the first two in an OCC-Cardinal match at Delaware on Sept. 18, but lost 25-12, 25-17, 24-26, 22-25, 15-9. The Cardinals were 3-11 overall and 1-9 in the league before playing Olentangy Berlin on Sept. 24.

The injuries have had an impact. The loss to Delaware was the Cardinals' fifth in a row and 10th in 11 matches since opening the season 2-1.

"This is a resilient team," Walter said. "They fight through it and they work hard. (We're) just trying to find our identity with the changing lineups."

Josie Tinnerello, who led the Cardinals with 127 digs through 14 matches, has moved to libero from outside hitter because of the injuries.

"It's a new role for her and a different view of the court," Walter said. "But she's definitely been our rock. She's very consistent and a great, great defensive player. We definitely rely on her."

Defensive specialists Rosa Spurgeon and Elaine Ondo have provided senior leadership for Thomas with the turmoil in the lineup.

"They've stepped it up at practice," Walter said. "Not only that, but they're trying to make sure everybody is still working through all of the challenges."

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Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Thomas cross country, field hockey, boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Sept. 28 -- Midwest Meet of Champions at Hilliard Bradley

FIELD HOCKEY

Sept. 28 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Ursuline

Sept. 30 -- At Watterson

Oct. 2 -- At New Albany

BOYS GOLF

Sept. 26 -- Kilbourne at York

Sept. 28 -- Tiger Invitational at Turnberry

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.

GIRLS GOLF

Sept. 30 -- Kilbourne at Worthington Hills

BOYS SOCCER

Oct. 1 -- At Westerville South

GIRLS SOCCER

Sept. 26 -- At Westerville North

GIRLS TENNIS

Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Hartley

Oct. 2 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Sept. 26 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto. The Cardinals lost to the Irish 26-24, 25-21, 25-22 on Sept. 3.

Sept. 28 -- At Hamilton Township

Sept. 30 -- Home vs. Teays Valley

Oct. 1 -- Home vs. Newark

BOYS WATER POLO

Sept. 28 -- Upper Arlington Duals

GIRLS WATER POLO

Sept. 27-28 -- Beast of the East in Reading, Pa.

*League contest