Co-coach Adam Berry feels like he's got his top two runners for the Centennial boys cross country team in Nick Loudner and Jeff Kimball.
Now, he's looking for the next four to emerge to help the Stars down the stretch.
"We're mostly trying to get our three through seven guys to move up and be more competitive and challenge for some spots," said Berry, who coaches along with Michael Klingler. "If we don't do that then we're going to struggle in the (City) League race."
Loudner led the Stars in the Whetstone Arrowhead Invitational on Sept. 18. He ran the race in 18 minutes, 1.6 seconds to finish ninth of 185 competitors, and the Stars placed eighth (190 points) of 15 teams behind champion Bexley (48).
"(Loudner) has had a nice season," Berry said. "You can tell he's been putting in the work. We have to share him with the soccer team, so he's not always at our practices. But he's actually been a pretty big leader for our team in terms of setting a good example. Even when he can't make practice, it's obvious that he's been running on his own trying to get better."
Kimball finished 18th in 18:50.9. Also scoring for the Stars were Jabe Miller (54th, 20:37.3), Colin Murphy (58th, 20:45.5) and Kleo Kapaj (80th, 21:36.6).
"We struggled with our energy that day," Berry said. "Our top two runners ran OK. Three through five, which are our other scorers, kind of struggled and we took a step back."
Loudner (18:33.1) and Kimball (19:15.2) came back to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, out of 110 runners in Walnut Ridge's Rick Mettle Invitational on Sept. 25. The duo led the Stars to a fourth-place finish (91) out of 10 teams behind champion Groveport (37).
The girls team also is led by a Loudner and a Kimball.
Brooke Loudner finished 31st (23:26.5) of 114 runners in the Arrowhead Invitational to lead Centennial.
Like her brother, Loudner also plays soccer and missed the Rick Mettle Invitational. So, Jana Kimball stepped up and led the Stars with an 11th-place finish (25:52.8) out of 36 runners.
"I think they're still kind of learning how to race," Berry said of the girls team, which has six runners. "Three are new to cross country this year, so we're hoping to improve from week to week and a lot of times that happens."
The Stars compete in the City meet Oct. 9 at Walnut Ridge before racing in the Division II district meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby.
"Typically, in the (district meet), we get a lot of (personal records)," Berry said. "There's not a lot of pressure on us because we're not necessarily expecting to move on (to regional) as a team. A lot of times without that pressure, the athletes do have better races."
Football team seeking many firsts
At 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the City-North Division at the midpoint of the regular season, the football team could conceivably do something it has never done before: make the playoffs.
The Stars were projected to be 13th in Division III, Region 11 this week, according to joeeitel.com. The top eight qualify for the postseason.
"I think we control our own fate," coach Dante Goosby said. "It's as easy or as difficult as we make it. But we have not been in this position too many times in the past. It's not in our DNA -- a playoff hunt or playing for a City-League-North title. That's not in our DNA.
"I think it's a lot easier to fumble an opportunity like this than it is to take advantage of it or execute. But we're certainly up for the challenge. It beats the alternative."
Centennial has an opportunity to make a statement in the league race with a win Friday, Oct. 4, at Beechcroft.
How long has it been since Centennial won a league title?
"Never," Goosby said. "It's been since never."
And when was the last time the Stars beat the Cougars?
"Again, that'd be another never," Goosby said. "We've never beaten Beechcroft and before last year, we haven't even been that close. And we've never beaten Northland, either."
The Stars fell 30-25 in last year's meeting against Beechcroft after losing 32-0 in 2017 and 41-0 in 2016.
"We're in such an alien position, such a different position, that we have to find a way to (motivate)," Goosby said. "Even if it was standard operating procedure, we have to find any tool that we can use that's motivating."
Centennial picked up its fourth win in a row by beating East 40-6 to open league play Sept. 27, although Goosby said the game was closer than the score indicated. The Stars used a C.J. Dean interception return for a touchdown, a Marquise Scott punt return for a score and a blocked punt recovered by Kelvin Gilliam in the end zone to blow open what was a 14-6 halftime lead.
Filling in for the injured Jaylen Gilbert (elbow) at quarterback, Syquee Womack threw for a touchdown and ran for two. He also had an interception on defense.
Goosby said Gilbert has been progressing and might play against Beechcroft, which improved to 3-2 overall by beating Toledo Waite 20-12 on Sept. 28. The Cougars are 1-0 in the league.
Girls volleyball team playing well in City
The girls volleyball team has seen a lot of success in the City-North but entered the week still looking for its first non-league win.
The Stars were 10-6 overall and 10-1 in the City-North before playing Whetstone on Oct. 1 to decide the league championship.
Whetstone won the first meeting 25-15, 18-25, 25-17, 25-23 on Sept. 5 and was undefeated in the league before the rematch.
"The kids take (the rivalry) super-serious and personal," coach Brittani Lewis said. "We want to win and we want to win badly."
Centennial picked up back-to-back, straight-set league wins over Linden-McKinley (25-10, 25-15, 25-6 on Sept. 24) and East (25-23, 25-9, 25-11 on Sept. 26) after losing to host Licking Heights (25-11, 25-14) and Westerville Central (25-10, 25-5) on Sept. 21 and Grandview 25-12, 25-16, 25-9 on Sept. 23.
"Within the City League, I'd say our offense is our strength," Lewis said. "We're still working through some kinks on serve receive. When it comes to more aggressive teams, it's reading their hitters better."
Lewis said an aggressive serve, especially from Erika Bautista, Sky Harris and Nikita Reynolds, has been the catalyst for the Stars' success in league play.
Harris and Reynolds also lead the Stars on offense, and Naa Dromo Korley has been a factor on the block, according to Lewis.
"Our serves have been pretty aggressive this year as far as spot serves," Lewis said. "Hitting zones where they're not and moving people around on defense (has been a key)."
Below are the coming schedules for the Centennial boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 2 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Turnberry. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Hartley
Oct. 8 -- At Dublin Scioto
Oct. 8 -- At Hamilton Township
Oct. 3, 5 -- Division II sectional at Columbus School for Girls. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 at CSG and Oct. 12 at Reynoldsburg.
*Oct. 3 -- At Mifflin. The Stars defeated the Punchers 25-8, 25-16, 25-8 on Sept. 10.
*Oct. 8 -- At International. The Stars defeated the Lions 25-13, 26-24, 25-18 on Sept. 12.