Sophomore Joey Taylor and freshman Hunter Armstrong have led the way for the Central Crossing boys cross country team despite not knowing about the program until they started high school.
Both ran track in middle school but have come to love their new sport, and they could find themselves among the cross country program's all-time top 10 times before graduation.
"I started running to be in shape for basketball and track, but the sport grew on me and I like it a lot," said Taylor, whose best time is 17 minutes, 40.1 seconds when he finished sixth Sept. 14 in the Newark Invitational. "I ran track in middle school, but I didn't know (cross country) was a thing. I like the people you meet when you run. It's fun and I think it's easy."
Armstrong was unaware of cross country before August. He had his top time at Newark, finishing 26th in 18:47.1.
"I have been doing workouts with Joey and I try to stay up with him because he's superior to me," Armstrong said. "I'm obviously the only freshman on the team so I try to keep up with everyone else."
Armstrong said he has been tinkering with his pace to improve his times late in the season.
"I started out slower than everyone and tried to increase speed," he said. "If I go out too fast, I start slowing down too early. Coach (Reggie Cannon) has been working with me to pace myself and push harder on the second mile. That's where I tend to slow down."
C.J. Patrick, a 2018 graduate, holds the program's top time of 16:16.77. Matt Shaffer, a 2009 graduate, has the 10th-best time of 16:52.0.
"Hunter's chasing Joey who is chasing C.J.," Cannon said. "Depending on where Joey is in the next two-plus years, that's where Hunter wants to be. They both should be solidly in the top 10 all-time. They need to get stronger and their focus needs to be a little better."
Cannon said Taylor has grown into his role as the leading runner for the Comets.
"Joey is much more competitive over last year, and he's grown physically," Cannon said. "He's not the same skinny freshman that he was a year ago. He's filling out and getting taller.
"He's going to get bigger and taller. I'm not sure how tall or how that will affect his cross country in the future."
Cannon said Armstrong wills himself to be a better runner.
"Hunter's strength is interesting because he does what he wants to do," Cannon said. "At the beginning of the year, his goal was to break 20 (minutes) and I told him that wasn't enough for him.
"In his first meet, he ran a 20:34.6 (in the New Albany Invitational on Aug. 19). I told him that his goal should be sub-19 or even the low 18s for this year. Joey ran 18:28 last year and Hunter is within 19 seconds of that now with two meets to go."
Those two meets are the OCC-Central Division meet Saturday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Davidson and the Division I district meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby.
"There is a lot of tough competition in our league and you have to push it no matter what," said Taylor, who finished 41st (18:37.2) last fall in the league meet. "I like the course (at Davidson) because it's pretty flat and you can get some better times."
Football team to face Coffman
The football team rarely seems to have a soft start to OCC-Central play.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Comets' first two league games are against Davidson and Dublin Coffman -- the two teams that have combined to win the past 10 OCC-Central championships.
Central Crossing fell to 2-4 with a 35-0 loss to Davidson on Oct. 4 and will play host to Coffman on Friday, Oct. 11. The Comets are 1-11 all-time against the Shamrocks, with their only win coming in 2015, 48-42 in overtime.
"They come at you in different ways. Davidson punches you right in the mouth and Coffman wins with more of a finesse style," coach Trevor White said. "They're a lot to handle, but the way we're treating this week is that it's about us and our ability to consistently execute. We have to become more consistent. There were some plays (Oct. 4) where everyone covered their assignments well, but there weren't enough of them."
Central Crossing was held to 78 yards against Davidson, which amassed 289 of its 302 total yards on the ground and benefited from two Comets turnovers.
Kyren Glaze rushed for 27 yards on nine carries and Anthony Lowe caught four passes for 16 yards to lead Central Crossing.
Coffman improved to 5-1 with a 28-9 home win over Marysville on Oct. 4 in the OCC-Central opener for both teams.
The Shamrocks were outgained 291-263, including 213-184 on the ground, but benefited from interceptions by defensive back Cam Kirk and linebacker Devon Williams.
Bryon Threats rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Mike Drennen and Jameel Williamson each added a rushing touchdown for Coffman, which bounced back from a 29-27 home loss to Pickerington North seven days earlier.
Threats has rushed for 276 yards and eight touchdowns on 32 carries. Williamson has added 20 carries for 154 yards and six scores.
Drennen missed Coffman's first two games because of injury and slowly has worked his way back into the lineup.
"They have a ton of skill-(position) guys who can take it to the house on any given play and they're huge up front," White said. "They're another outstanding team in the area and it will take a great effort on our part this week."
-- Dave Purpura
Golfers come up short at sectional
The boys golf team concluded its season by finishing 14th (390) of 15 teams behind champion Pickerington North (306) in a Division I sectional tournament Oct. 2 at Turnberry.
Juniors James Schwinne (91) and Jackson Phillips (92) led the Comets, followed by junior Aidan Phipps (98), sophomore Austin Estep (109) and senior Sam White (115).
Central Crossing finished fifth (4-16) in the OCC-Central behind champion Upper Arlington (19-1).
Senior Courtnie Sprouse competed in the Division I girls golf sectional Oct. 1 at Mentel Memorial, tying for 32nd with a 99.
The Comets were led by 14th-year coach Justin Prati.
-- Scott Hennen
Tennis team closes season at sectional
The girls tennis team had its season end Oct. 3 in a Division I sectional at Hilliard Bradley.
Seniors Emily Creasap and Madison Wallner and sophomore Sophia Toscano lost their openers in singles.
The doubles teams of senior Alina Marko and junior Emily Wright and senior Katie Meleshchuk and junior Irina Meleshchuk also lost in their first matches.
The Comets were led by third-year coach Lauren Hendricks. They finished 3-10 overall and fifth (1-4) in the OCC-Central behind champion UA (5-0).
-- Scott Hennen
Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
*Oct. 10 -- At Westland
Oct. 17 -- At 20th-seeded Marysville or home versus 45th-seeded Walnut Ridge in second round of Division I district tournament. The Comets are seeded 44th.
*Oct. 10 -- Home vs. Westland
Oct. 16 -- At 19th-seeded Hilliard Darby in first round of Division I district tournament. The Comets are seeded 37th.
*Oct. 3 -- Home vs. Westland. The Comets defeated the Cougars 26-24, 25-17, 25-19 on Sept. 17.
Oct. 14 -- At 16th-seeded Olentangy in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 36th-seeded Thomas Worthington in second round Oct. 16 at home of better seed. The Comets are seeded 37th.