The Hilliard Darby cross country program closed the season with both of its representatives on the podium at the Division I state meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.
Junior Sean Carney of the boys team finished in 15 minutes, 48 seconds to place 15th out of 186 runners, behind champion Matt Duvall (15:12.9) of Pickerington North, while senior Daniella Santos of the girls team placed 15th (18:19.6) of 183 runners, behind champion Taylor Ewert (17:22.5) of Beavercreek.
"Throughout the season, I had an issue of getting out too fast," said Carney, a first-time state qualifier. "I ended up getting a little bit trapped back there, but I got into the second mile and just tried to ... pass enough people to get on the podium.
"It was my first time racing here. I missed out on it last year. It's definitely the craziest environment I've raced in yet, and it was a lot of fun."
Carney had qualified for state by finishing seventh (16:06.7) of 125 runners at regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North, as Duvall won (15:33.8).
"(The state meet) was probably the best cross country race of his career so far and that's the meet you want to do it at," boys coach Matthew Fox said. "The field was incredibly deep this year, so it was going to be a battle to be in that top 20. But he positioned himself well and he held off a big group at the end."
Santos, a three-time state qualifier, battled through a sinus infection to post her best finish and her best time at state. She placed 18th (18:56.8) at state last season after finishing 28th (18:36.4) in 2017.
"(She) definitely had high hopes of doing better, but when illness sets in, there's nothing you can do," girls coach Jon Agriesti said. "She fought and fought hard, but it wasn't quite what she was looking for as a senior."
Santos, who had finished first (17:48.7) of 130 runners at regional, was disappointed despite turning in her best state performance.
"(It's) not really where I wanted to be," she said. "I went out and just felt like I hit a wall and couldn't go any faster."
Santos is one of 10 seniors on the girls team.
Among the expected returnees are five runners who competed at regional when the Panthers finished 14th of 17 teams in junior Krystal Singh, sophomores Alivia Cannon, Jessica Govine and Grace Pitt and freshman Kara Martin.
"We made a lot of progress this year," Agriesti said. "Last year, we probably didn't have four girls that could break 20 minutes. We had 10 this year. We graduate Daniella and that hurts, but we're sitting pretty good to keep developing this team."
The boys team also is losing 10 seniors, including two runners who competed in the district 3 meet Oct. 19 at Darby in Tyler Hessenauer and Balaji Kurapati.
In addition to Carney, expected to return after competing at district are junior Avery Lyle, sophomores Aidan Koppenhaufer and Isaiah McCottry and freshman Collins Applegate.
"We have a good group coming back," Fox said. "Our second runner this year was a sophomore (Jake Long) that got hurt midway through the season, so he was out the whole second half of the year. We (expect to) return seven of our top 10, which is exciting. That bodes well for next year."
Football team wins final four games
The football team closed the season with a 35-14 win over Dublin Scioto on Nov. 1.
The Panthers won their final four games to finish 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division. They finished ninth in Division I, Region 3 to fall one spot shy of making the playoffs.
For the second consecutive game, the Panthers' offense did all of its damage on the ground, racking up 346 yards rushing against the Irish. Quarterback Jack Stultz attempted just one pass, which fell incomplete.
Evan Grose ran for 178 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, Stultz had 79 yards rushing on 15 carries and Connor Jones ran for 76 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries.
Jones also had an interception return for a touchdown, which extended Darby's lead to 28-0. The Panthers led 21-0 at halftime.
Scioto finished 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.