Pickerington Central boys cross country runner Chase Balko fought some impatience early in the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, but kept the end goal in mind.
Balko, a junior, held his own throughout the race and finished 17th in 16 minutes, 25.1 seconds as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to state Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.
"It was so tough," Balko said. "The first mile, I wanted to go up farther, but I knew it would hurt me in the end so I was just trying to stay patient. Once we got through two miles, I was 20th, so I knew I had to grind it out if I wanted to make it."
Balko, a first-time state qualifier, extended the Tigers' streak of state appearances to five years. Jack Jaynes and Matt Scrape advanced in 2015, the team participated in 2016 and Scrape returned in 2017 with teammate Brady Johnson, who qualified as an individual last year.
"It's amazing. These are such great runners and I had a great time running with them when I had a chance," said Balko, who has battled illness on and off for about a month. "I want to continue that legacy."
Coach Andy Fischer said he could see this coming for Balko when he ran a 16:27.6 and finished sixth in the Westerville Classic on Aug. 31 at Westerville North.
"We looked at the runners there and we started thinking we really had someone who could make it to state," Fischer said. "He got sick the next week and then he got a little better, then it hit him again. He was sick (Sept. 21 during the Tiger Invitational at Central) and we held him out at London (the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic on Sept. 28). To see him start to feel better last week was great. His confidence improved and this week he got out and made it happen."
Central finished last (338 points) of 16 teams at regional behind champion Gahanna (100) as 16 teams scored.
Also scoring for the Tigers were Jailen Willis (70th, 17:18.8), Brycen Rogers (92nd, 17:38.8), Gavin Kelly (101st, 17:49.2) and Andrew Scrape (111th, 18:11.9).
"We had higher hopes team-wise after (finishing fourth in the district 1 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby), but we were just a little bit off," Fischer said. "We had to be on (at district) just to make it here."
Earlier Oct. 26, Grace Osborn of the girls team finished 34th (20:01.9) of 130 runners in the Division I regional race.
The junior was making her second consecutive regional appearance. She finished 40th last year.
"Doing a virtual meet beforehand, she was sitting about 35th, so the way I look at it, she came in and ran what she is capable of running. She ran her race," coach Jacob Schimberg said. "She said it felt like it was about three minutes (of) running, it was so fast. This is a race where everybody is good, so it will feel different.
"She is disappointed. Having been here last year, too, and feeling stronger, she had her eyes set on state. Sometimes you can pass 15 girls quickly, but if the 15 in front of you are so fast, it's tough."
Boys soccer team falls to Patriots
The 22nd-seeded boys soccer team fell behind by two goals in the first half of a Division I district semifinal Oct. 22 at second-seeded Olentangy Liberty, and despite junior forward Koen Droese's goal could not catch up in a 3-1 loss.
Senior goalkeeper Garvin Osei-Frimpong made 10 saves for the Tigers, who finished 10-6-2.
"We embraced the underdog role and were able to play with no expectations or fear," coach Brett Neiderman said. "We defended for long spells but did so well. ... In the end, it was too much for us, but we showed determination and never gave up. We got so much better as the year went on and we countered teams very well, which led to a majority of our goals this year. The boys did a great job and I am extremely proud of them."
Droese scored a team-high 17 goals and had eight assists. Senior forward Elvis Fianko added 11 goals and seven assists and senior midfielder Cavan Castellon had eight goals and six assists.
Droese and Osei-Frimpong were named first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and Osei-Frimpong was second-team all-district. Senior midfielders Kwame Amoako and Mirnes Bubalo were second-team all-league, Castellon was special mention all-league and Fianko was honorable mention all-league.
Among other players eligible to return is junior defender Jaden Snell.
Volleyball team loses in semifinal
The girls volleyball team advanced to a Division I district semifinal for the sixth consecutive season but got no further, losing to top-seeded Olentangy Orange 25-10, 25-12, 25-17 on Oct. 22 at Central Crossing.
Central, which was seeded 24th of 49 teams, finished 11-12 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Ohio, fourth behind champion Gahanna (10-0).
The Tigers are losing most of their top front-row players in seniors Londyn Coles (outside hitter), Alayja Floyd (middle blocker) and Brittany Miller (outside hitter) but expect to return freshman middle blocker Emma Beretich.
Coles is a West Texas A&M commit.
"The idea this year (was) not just what we can accomplish now, but how do we transition them into college," coach Eric Hughes said.
Other players eligible to return include junior Vanessa Glass (defensive specialist) and sophomore J.J. Bouarouy (setter).
Girls soccer team falls to Monarchs
Playing in its second consecutive Division I district semifinal, the 21st-seeded girls soccer team lost 2-0 at ninth-seeded Marysville 2-0 on Oct. 23 to finish 11-8 overall.
The Tigers went 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio, fifth behind champion Grove City (4-0-1).
Central was coming off a 2-1 upset win at second-seeded North in the second round Oct. 19, its first win over the Panthers since 2014.
Expected returnees include juniors Tatum McElwain (forward/defender), Lia Petrefski (forward/midfielder) and Kassidy Stanley (defender/midfielder), sophomores Lauryn Evans (goalie) and Ramiya Roy (forward) and freshmen Kennedy Coles (forward/midfielder) and Emma Morton (midfielder).
"The class coming up next year will be strong," coach Maria Manzo said. "With the girls we have coming back, we expect to be even stronger next year."