Groveport Madison girls cross country runner Brianna Chan has spent most of the past two years coming back from one injury or another.
On Sept. 25, the senior finally got to watch all of her competitors finish behind her.
Chan accomplished what she called her "first first" during the Rick Mettle Invitational at Walnut Ridge, earning her first career victory in 22 minutes, 34 seconds, finishing 28 seconds ahead of runner-up Nevaeh Reeves of the host Scots.
She showed no ill effects of the stress fracture in her right leg that cost her her sophomore track and field season and hampered her junior year of cross country, nor of a concussion sustained during a dance competition that kept her out of track last spring.
"I loved running the hills (at Walnut Ridge). That was my favorite part of the course," Chan said. "(This season) is going well. I am dropping times, so it's pretty good. I think I can hit 21 minutes by (the Division I) district (meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby). That's my biggest goal."
Chan already has dropped more than 90 seconds from the beginning of the season, when she ran 24:08.4 in the New Albany Invitational on Aug. 19 and 24:09.1 in the Pickerington Classic five days later at Pickerington North. Her season-best time entering last weekend was 22:20.7 in the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 14 at Olentangy Liberty.
She was the Cruisers' top runner in each of their first eight races.
"She came back from something that should have been career-ending," coach Vincent Gay said. "She worked hard at it all through her junior year and around track season she started to look like her old self. She came in motivated and ready to take that top spot. That was a big role to fill. Victoria (Williams, a 2019 graduate) defined what it was to be a captain last year so Bri had some pretty big shoes to fill, but she's done well with it. She has this young team together and working to compete."
Groveport swept the team and individual championships in the Rick Mettle Invitational.
Illyaas Haji won the boys race in 17:12, leading the Cruisers to 37 points and first place out of 10 teams, ahead of runner-up Eastmoor Academy (64). The girls scored 25 points to win the three-team race, ahead of runner-up Madison Christian (39).
Chan took up running as a sophomore but increasingly competed through pain as the season progressed.
"I felt my leg hurting and I went to go get checked out and I realized I had a stress fracture, so I wasn't able to run that track season," Chan said. "I came back to cross country in my junior year and I got a concussion. I was doing a flip while I was dancing and landed on my head."
Freshman teammate Alexiz Golden said Chan's positive attitude leaves a deep impression on the rest of the program.
"When people say Bri's name, I think 'light' because she's very positive," Golden said. "She's always smiling and encouraging everybody."
Chan said that is partially a byproduct of her dance background. She hopes to dance competitively and run on a club team in college.
"It's always been a thing ever since I started running," said Chan, who has narrowed her college choices to Central Ohio Technical College, Miami University, Ohio State and Otterbein. "It's always been my passion to run and dance and usually when you are dancing, you smile a lot and I bring that to the team to hype us up and make us better."
Girls soccer team earns second win
Girls soccer coach Mark Coyer said his team is understanding its offensive capabilities more as the season progresses, despite some lopsided scores.
The Cruisers earned their second win Sept. 26, 9-0 over visiting Northland behind three goals from Sydney Wermter and two each from Lyla Khanthachack and Nicole Mohler. That broke a three-game losing streak that followed the team's first win, 5-0 over Franklin Heights on Sept. 10.
Groveport was 2-10 overall before playing host to Licking Heights on Oct. 1 and is 1-2 in the OCC-Capital Division entering a Thursday, Oct. 3, game at Newark.
"A lot of our growth has come with our scoring," Coyer said. "We might be giving up more goals, but we are being more offensive and getting the ball down the field better than in previous years. My players understand that we work on getting the ball wide. We're not skilled enough to dribble through the center and through defenders, so we have to play wide with some angles and run to the ball. We've had some success crossing the ball."
The win over Northland came after consecutive losses to league rivals Canal Winchester, 9-0 on Sept. 17, and New Albany, 13-0 on Sept. 24. The Indians and Eagles have combined to win the past three OCC-Capital championships.
Girls tennis team set for sectional
The girls tennis team finished its regular season Sept. 30 at Hamilton Township, then turned its attention to a Division I sectional tournament Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Upper Arlington.
Precious Anumbondem, Jillian Caldwell and Cassie Salva will play singles, while Lori Hill and Mama Bintou Tunkara will comprise one doubles team and Kristy Recob and Marie Sungu will make up the other.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
Other top teams at the sectional include Dublin Jerome and Olentangy Orange.
Groveport was 2-11 before playing Hamilton Township. The Cruisers split two matches last week, falling 5-0 to visiting Hartley on Sept. 24 and defeating the visiting Rangers 4-1 on Sept. 26.
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison boys golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Denison Golf Club. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Newark
Oct. 8 -- At Licking Heights
*Oct. 3 -- At Newark
Oct. 8 -- At Hartley
*Oct. 3 -- At Newark. The Cruisers lost to the Wildcats 25-14, 25-13, 25-8 on Sept. 12.
Oct. 5 -- At Hamilton Township