In his second race of the season a few weeks ago, Thaine Nederveld finally surpassed the personal-best time he had set almost two years prior.
The junior for the Whetstone boys cross country team endured broken bones in both of his arms resulting from separate incidents that occurred in the summer of 2018. The injuries hindered his training and kept him from having the sophomore season he was hoping for.
Nederveld saw gradual improvement over the course of this season, enough that he began running consistently faster than 17 minutes.
After winning the City League meet in 16 minutes, 53.7 seconds Oct. 9 at Walnut Ridge, he set another personal record by finishing 12th in 16:19.7 at the Division I, district 3 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby to qualify for regional for the first time.
In the regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, Nederveld came up just short of qualifying for state Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway, as he placed 23rd in 16:36.6.
The top five teams and top 20 individuals at regional advanced to state.
"(My season) progressed pretty well," Nederveld said. "The second race of the year, I got my PR for my high school running career, so that was nice, and the next race I got another PR, so I've been down (under 17 minutes) for a while.
"Last year, I had quite a few setbacks over the summer. I had broken both of my arms at different points, so I didn't get to train much and I wasn't in great shape. This year, I was able to train better."
Nederveld ran a mile under five minutes for the first time at the district meet, when he ran 4:59 in the first mile and went on to run a PR by almost 20 seconds. At regional, he was focused more on place rather than his time.
Whetstone's last state qualifier was 2011 graduate Evan Schwartz, who qualified as a junior in 2009 and also was a regional qualifier in 2010.
"At the district race, I was really happy with how I ran," Nederveld said. "I got up with the fast group of runners and stuck with them because I wanted to make sure I made the regional meet."
The only senior in Whetstone's postseason lineup was Hassan Sesay, who was the team's No. 6 runner at district as the Braves placed 13th.
In addition to Nederveld, the Braves, who won their first City title since 2014, should return three of the league's top runners in junior Matthew Conroy and freshmen Maitland Neff and Wyatt Starkie.
Others eligible to return are junior Eli Hinderer, sophomore Reed Wilson and freshman Patrick Knotsman.
Freshman Anouk Moritz emerged as the girls team's top runner, finishing 62nd (23:20.8) at the district 3 meet after running 23:27.2 to finish runner-up at the City meet.
Others eligible to return include junior Marisa Tayal, who was the team's No. 2 runner at district, junior Micah Stromsoe DeLorenzo and freshmen Ella Combs, Mia Kain and Olivia Koester.
Juniors Julian Calderone and Mira Dush also should return after missing most of the season with injuries.
Ella Payne and Megan Sharp, who were the team's Nos. 4 and 6 runners, respectively, at the league meet, were the Braves' only seniors.
"Both teams gave it their all, and that's all you can ask for," coach Joe Monda said. "(Moritz is) a freshman and I like to refer to her as an Energizer Bunny. She's very consistent and works hard. The best thing is that they've all worked hard in practice and it's paid off. We've got most of the kids (coming) back, so I'm really looking forward to that. It's been a good year."
Football team preps for Stars
Trying to overcome one of the City's most potent offenses will be the next task for the football team.
The Braves will close their season Friday, Nov. 1, at home against Centennial, which they've lost to the past two seasons, including 32-27 last year.
The Stars went 7-3 last season and are 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the City-North Division after beating Northland 33-7 on Oct. 25 to clinch at least a share of the league title.
Whetstone lost to East 20-6 on Oct. 25 to drop to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the league.
Quarterback Jaylen Gilbert has played the last four games for the Stars after missing four contests with an injury. He has had three consecutive games of throwing for more than 100 yards.
Also for the Stars, running back Luchene Davis has rushed for 951 yards and 17 touchdowns and has five receiving touchdowns.
The Braves have used Rashaun Broomfield in numerous ways on offense. He has 447 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 48 carries and 43 receptions for 683 yards and eight scores.
Quarterback Alex Hurd went 29-for-41 passing for 311 yards and a touchdown against East and is 101-for-175 for 1,128 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season.
"Alex Hurd, our quarterback, broke 1,000 (yards) in passing (and) the game performance was outstanding (against East)," coach Tom Jones said.