Sam Thomas enjoyed the Division I state boys cross country meet this year a lot more than he did last season.
The Dublin Scioto senior finished 31st of 186 runners Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway in 16 minutes, 4.5 seconds. Last season, he placed 73rd (17:03.6) of 186 runners while running part of the race with a broken right fibula.
"It was a better experience this year," Thomas said. "I thought I got out and positioned myself well. I ran a good race. I ran my second-best time of the season and, overall, I can't complain. I know I was pretty close to all-Ohio (top 30), which was a goal of mine. I ran tough and hard."
Thomas' season-best time came in the district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby when he placed second (15:56.6).
"Sam ran a good race where he didn't have to walk away wondering 'what if,' " coach Kevin Foley said. "We were hoping for top (30). That's the all-Ohio standard. That was a goal and he came close, so no regrets."
Thomas' state time is seventh-best in program history, according to Foley. Luis Carbajal, a 2011 graduate, holds the program record of 15:41.4, which he ran when he placed 12th in 2010.
Thomas was joined at state by junior Ali Latif, who finished 109th (16:48.6) in his first state appearance.
"The first time that you go in there, there's really nothing that can prepare you for it," Foley said. "It's always an eye-opening and learning experience. The one thing about Ali, he's a very fast learner. ... Qualifying for state is a big accomplishment. He's a very focused and determined athlete."
Led by Thomas, Scioto advanced to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, where it finished seventh (215 points) of 16 teams behind champion Gahanna (100).
Thomas, who was one of five seniors, placed 13th (16:16.8) and Latif was 19th (16:26.5) at regional to earn state berths.
Other regional competitors were senior Dylan Walsh, junior Trevor Page, sophomore Spencer McClellan and freshmen Bryce Page and Reece Page.
Sophomore Justin Ward is another key runner expected to return next season.
Thomas, who now will now prepare for track and field season in the spring, is considering running in college.
"I still have the track season to run well and hopefully I can stay healthy," he said. "I didn't run track last season because of the broken leg and I didn't run any summer mileage, so I just came into the season working as hard as I could to get to this point. For the way that I ran (at state), I'm pretty happy all things considered."
Bannister competes at state for third time
Junior Audrey Bannister of the girls cross country team competed in her third state meet, finishing 47th of 183 runners in 19:10.8.
She finished 31st (19:15.2) of 172 runners last season after placing 37th (18:51.4) of 173 runners as a freshman.
"It wasn't exactly place-wise where I wanted to be, but I'm happy because my time improved compared to what I ran there sophomore year," Bannister said. "I'm proud of my performance."
Bannister will take a short break before preparing for track in the spring.
"I'm happy to be on break because I've been training since June," she said. "I am excited for next season. It will be my senior season. I'd like to run in college."
Bannister advanced to state by finishing eighth (18:55.1) at regional. She placed fourth (19:01.5) in the district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Darby.
Other district competitors for the Irish were senior Ashley Carr, juniors Sofia Morales and Ally Thornbloom, sophomore Avery Samms and freshmen Maya Gamez and Megan Hartman.
Junior Mei Harter is another key runner expected to return next season.
Football team closes season with loss
The football team concluded its season with a 35-14 loss to visiting Darby on Nov. 1.
The Irish finished 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division and finished 11th in Division II, Region 7, three spots shy of a playoff berth.
Scioto, which lost its final three games, trailed the Panthers 21-0 at halftime. Tobias Thomas rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and had six catches for 47 yards, and quarterback Chad Ray completed 15 of 24 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Darby finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.