Pickerington Central girls cross country runner Grace Osborn was more concerned about placement than time during the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 12 at Lancaster, but that took a back seat to her role as a teammate and best friend in the immediate aftermath of the race.
Osborn comforted teammate Brenna Todd, who was the team's sixth runner despite recurring health issues that have hampered her throughout the season. Osborn got water and checked on how Todd was feeling, and only after Todd walked back to the team's tent did Osborn head toward the award stand to be recognized for her sixth-place finish.
As far as Osborn, the Tigers' top runner all season, is concerned, being a leader involves as much off the course as on.
"I make sure to check on everybody else when they come in before I take off my chip (that runners wear for scoring purposes) and Brenna is my best friend, so I just needed to be there for her," Osborn said. "That's just part of being on the team and being there for everybody else."
Having run through adversity herself in the past few weeks because of a car crash and some leg pain, Osborn finished in 20 minutes, 20.2 seconds at the league meet to lead Central to 92 points and fourth place behind Gahanna (40), Lancaster (47) and Pickerington North (76) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (112) and Grove City (172).
Also scoring for the shorthanded Tigers were Talia Mauro (11th, 21:03.9), Grace Vega (26th, 22:10.3), Emily Green (27th, 22:19.1) and Mallory Schmidt (30th, 22:30.5).
Central competed without two of its usual top-five runners in Amber and Ashley Carter, whom coach Jacob Schimberg said he was resting before the postseason begins with the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 19, at Hilliard Darby.
Osborn took a week off from running, including missing the Les Eisenhart Invitational on Oct. 5 at Thomas Worthington. She has been Central's lead runner in five of her first six races.
"I'm a little bit sore. I could feel it in my back when I was running, but overall I am feeling much better," Osborn said.
Schimberg said Osborn works hard to mask any shortcomings when it comes to injuries or other pain.
"She's been limited lately, but she delivers," he said. "She's battled some leg pain, a deep thigh issue, and then the accident happened, so I'd have to say overall, she hasn't felt the best for most of the season. If she was healthier, she could be running more the paces and times she wants, but even despite all of that, she still shows up and goes out and puts it all on the line.
"You look at her on the course and you'd never know she's not feeling her best. She doesn't wear that on her face. She still goes out there and pushes and pushes."
In the boys race, Brycen Roger was 10th in 17:01.4 to lead Central to fourth place (104) behind North (33), Gahanna (36) and Lancaster (78) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (110) and Grove City (173).
Also scoring were Chase Balko (14th, 17:12.9), Jailen Willis (23rd, 17:34.1), Gavin Kelly (28th, 17:40.5) and Andrew Scrape (34th, 18:00.3).
"I was thinking I could get a 16:30, which given this course, I thought I could do," Roger said. "I feel very confident with what I've been able to do. I like what I've done, but I am not done yet and neither is this team. I think I can push to go to state."
At district, the top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regional Oct. 26 at North.
Girls soccer team begins tourney
The girls soccer team tried to extend its winning streak to three games when it played host to 38th-seeded Teays Valley in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 16.
Central, which is seeded 21st of 45 teams, was 9-7 before Oct. 16. The Tigers finished the regular season with wins over Westerville South, 3-2 on Oct. 5, and at Logan, 5-2 on Oct. 8.
"We've fought a few injuries and had to play some second-stringers in some games, but we're in better shape now," coach Maria Manzo said. "With injuries, it's just a matter of when they'll happen, not if, but hopefully getting more girls playing time will help us in the long run."
The Central-Teays Valley winner visits second-seeded North for a second-round game Saturday, Oct. 19. That winner will play ninth-seeded Marysville, 20th-seeded Olentangy Liberty or 41st-seeded Marion Harding in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 26.
The Tigers lost to North 4-1 on Sept. 10.
Tennis season ends at district
Junior Semmie Moore and sophomore Khandice Thomas of the girls tennis team fell one win short of their first Division I state appearance, losing to Olentangy Orange's Kortney Reed and Erin Storrer 6-2, 6-2 in the second round of the district tournament Oct. 10 at Reynoldsburg.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state Friday, Oct. 18, and Saturday, Oct. 19, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
"We had our chances and we just didn't take advantage," coach Kelli Rings said. "We played better in the second set. I can't be disappointed. The ball just didn't fall our way."
Senior Talia DiLello and junior Ella Culver lost to North's Sophia Anderson and Corinna Moesle 6-1, 6-2 in the first round.
That ended a season in which Central went 17-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio, second behind North (5-0).
Moore and Thomas usually played first and second singles, respectively, for a team that also is eligible to return sophomore Sydney Vernadakis and freshmen Robyn Beaty and Alexis Heren from its lineup.
The Tigers won their final dual match of the year Oct. 7, defeating Watkins Memorial 3-2.
"Two of those losses were to Upper Arlington and then we lost one each to Pickerington North and Olentangy Orange. Those are top-10 teams in the state," Rings said, adding that UA will represent the district in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state tournament Sunday, Oct. 20 at Reynoldsburg. "We had a lot of three-set matches and a lot of tiebreakers and they persevered."
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 15 -- Played 42nd-seeded Watkins Memorial in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 32nd-seeded Teays Valley in second round Oct. 17. Second-round winner plays second-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 39th-seeded Northland or 40th-seeded Westland in district semifinal Oct. 22. The Tigers are seeded 22nd.
Oct. 15 -- Played 18th-seeded Canal Winchester in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 39th-seeded Briggs in second round Oct. 17. Second-round winner plays top-seeded Olentangy Orange, 31st-seeded Westerville North or 35th-seeded Whetstone in district semifinal Oct. 23 at Central Crossing. The Tigers are seeded 24th.