With the league and postseason meets approaching, the Olentangy Liberty girls cross country team believes it has been making steady progress.
In the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 14, the Patriots scored 43 points to top a nine-team field that included mostly Delaware County programs. Of the 80 athletes who participated in one of the races at that meet, 58 ran personal-best times.
Liberty faced a mixture of strong programs throughout the state in the Midwest Meet of Champions on Sept. 28 at Hilliard Bradley and came away with an eighth-place finish (236) behind champion Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (130) as 23 teams scored. Junior Audrey Piero led with a 24th-place finish (20 minutes, 6.7 seconds), and the next five Patriots runners were within 52 seconds of one another.
"We had our best race of the season at the OWU Invitational held at Liberty Park, which is a 'home' meet for us," coach Darrell Dewese said. "The progress the athletes are making is evident and it's nice to see all the hard work they've put into the season paying off."
The Patriots compete in the Les Eisenhart Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 5, at Thomas Worthington, and the OCC-Buckeye Division meet is Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson.
Also in the Meet of Champions, senior Linnea Kunesh was 47th (20:57.7), followed by junior Elizabeth Okonak (52nd, 21:02), sophomores Allison Westfall (53rd, 21:03.1), Rachel Ziel (70th, 21:31.5) and Sarah Gilbert (85th, 21:49.6) and junior Haley Kruest (115th, 22:49.4).
"We'll need to continue our steady improvement to be competitive in the meets this October," Dewese said.
Boys runners build pack behind Humenay
In addition to having a strong No. 1 runner in senior Jack Humenay, the boys cross country team has been developing depth that should serve it well during the remaining meets.
Humenay, who is the fourth runner in program history to record a time faster than 16 minutes, captured the title in the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational when he ran 15:57.3 as the Patriots finished first (28) of 12 teams.
Liberty traveled to the 28-team Jackson (Michigan) Invitational on Sept. 21 and finished fifth (171) behind champion Washington (Michigan) Romeo (107) as Humenay placed 15th (16:18.7). He was followed by junior R.J. LaRosa (36th, 16:54.7), seniors Caleb Ogle (37th, 16:55) and Jacob Feldmaier (39th, 16:57.7), junior Tanner Sutton (44th, 17:00.7), senior Caleb Warrick (85th, 17:33.6) and junior Winston Fox (97th, 17:44.5).
In addition, seniors Brett Hinkle, Dylan Ingram, Zach King, Judd Ogle and Matthew Onate and freshmen Andrew Lee and Mitchell Martz are among those who are providing depth.
"Competing at Liberty Park during the Ohio Wesleyan Invitational has been a highlight for the team this fall," coach Jared Mills said. "Our progress has been measurable. From our summer camps, time trials and early season racing we've seen our varsity squad learn to rely and trust each other in practice and that's transferred into racing."
Girls tennis team preps for postseason
The girls tennis team is plotting a different course for the postseason after juniors Maddie Atway and Dani Schoenly elected to play singles after winning the last two Division I state doubles championships.
"They wanted to play singles this year," coach Will Thieman said. "It's a new challenge for them, so that's how we decided. We're pretty even throughout the rest of the lineup and once Maddie and Dani talked and made the decision to play singles, the rest fell into place."
Liberty was 9-8 after closing the regular season Sept. 30 by beating New Albany 3-2. Six of the Patriots' losses were by 3-2 scores.
Atway played first singles and Schoenly was at second singles for much of the regular season, and they are seeded first and fourth, respectively, for the sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5, at Reynoldsburg.
Atway opens against Mount Vernon's Anna Dinnen or Washington Court House Miami Trace's Cameron Bucher, and Schoenly opens against Marietta's Hannah Lovejoy or Chillicothe's Asia Penn. If both Atway and Schoenly win their first three matches, they would meet in a semifinal.
Also competing in singles is senior Naga Pokala, who opens against second-seeded Cassie Alcala, a two-time state qualifier from Pickerington North.
Competing in doubles are the teams of sophomore Morgan Porter and freshman Charvi Thumati and junior Emma Clark and freshman Kylie Wilson.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
"Our doubles have a good chance (of competing for a district berth)," Thieman said. "They'll practice hard and hopefully have a good week and see where the chips fall. It's been a good season and a lot of fun."
Below are the coming schedules for the Liberty field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 4 -- At Columbus Academy
*Oct. 7 -- At Berlin
*Oct. 9 -- Home vs. Orange
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Darby Creek. The top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Oct. 5 -- Wedgewood Showcase at Wedgewood
Oct. 1 -- Competed in Division I sectional at Mentel Memorial. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to district Oct. 8 at New Albany Links.
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*Oct. 3 -- At Westerville Central
*Oct. 3 -- At Westerville Central. The Patriots beat the Warhawks 25-12, 25-16, 25-18 on Sept. 12.
Oct. 5 -- At Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame
Oct. 8 -- Home vs. DeSales