In his third appearance in the Division I state boys cross country meet, Olentangy Liberty senior Jack Humenay nearly earned a spot on the podium Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway.

Humenay, who was competing as an individual after the Patriots placed eighth in the regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North to miss advancing by three spots, finished 23rd in 15 minutes, 53.5 seconds as the top 20 made the podium.

It was a step up for Humenay, who finished 61st (16:33.3) as a sophomore and 39th (16:49.9) last season.

"It was a lot more competitive, so I was pushing myself a lot more in it," he said. "I really enjoyed it. I thought I did really well. It was similar (to the last two years), but I found myself higher up in the race than usual. I like being with the more competitive top end so that made it a little bit different, but I thought it was pretty good."

Humenay was joined at state by the girls team, which finished 19th (439) of 20 squads behind champion Beavercreek (51) after placing fourth at regional.

Senior Linnea Kunesh led with a 116th-place finish (20:00.6), followed by junior Audrey Piero (125th, 20:09.2), sophomore Allison Westfall (130th, 20:12.2), junior Elizabeth Okonak (137th, 20:18.2), senior Lauren Buddie (149th, 20:36.1) and sophomores Sarah Gilbert (175th, 21:53.8) and Rachel Zies (177th, 22:06.1).

"I'll just remember coming down and looking at the crowd and just smiling," Buddie said. "This is so amazing and it feels so good."

Kunesh, Piero, Buddie and Gilbert all were returnees from last year's team that placed 10th at state.

"It was crazy running with that competition," Okonak said. "I've never run in the state meet before and just seeing all the girls out there is really intimidating, but really motivating at the same time."

Westfall moved in from Wisconsin during the season and made an immediate impact for the Patriots, who won the OCC-Buckeye Division title Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson and the district 1 championship Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby.

"I'm very happy with the season and the progress of the athletes," coach Darrell Dewese said. "We've accomplished all of the goals that we set out to accomplish at the beginning of the season. Our two front-runners, Linnea Kunesh and Audrey Piero, have been consistent all season. We've had some nice surprises."

Humenay was among five seniors at regional for the boys team, joining Caleb Ogle, Judd Ogle, Matthew Onate and Caleb Warrick.

Juniors R.J. LaRosa and Tanner Sutton should lead the returnees.

Boys soccer team advances to state

With a 5-0 victory over Worthington Kilbourne in a Division I regional final Nov. 2 at Olentangy, the boys soccer team had outscored its first five postseason opponents by a combined 16-1.

The Patriots were 18-2-1 before playing Liberty Township Lakota East in a state semifinal Nov. 6 at Xenia, with the winner to play Medina or Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final Sunday, Nov. 10, at Mapfre Stadium.

After beating Westerville Central 3-0 on Oct. 30 in a regional semifinal, Liberty got two goals from Ludwig Conrad and one apiece from Jaggar Brooker, Liam Garcia and Nate Logozzo against Kilbourne.

Liberty scored two goals in the first 20 minutes against the Wolves.

"A quick start is huge in a game like that," coach Marc D'Auteuil said. "When you're playing a team that hasn't been down much and scoring a goal a minute in and then getting a second one, it settles us down."

Against Central, Brooker, Graydon Shook and Conrad scored for Liberty, which also beat the Warhawks 3-1 on Oct. 3 in OCC-Buckeye play.

"It's a blessing," senior center back Blake Collins said. "It's always a confidence-booster being the top team out of central Ohio."

Last season, Liberty lost to Cincinnati Moeller 1-0 in overtime and Medina beat St. Ignatius 1-0 in state semifinals. Medina then beat Moeller 1-0 in overtime for the title.

"I'm excited," Conrad said. "I know the seniors are excited. This is the last time we're going to be able to do something like this."

Girls volleyball team falls in regional semi

The girls volleyball team followed its appearance in a Division I state semifinal last fall by having its season end with a 25-15, 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 loss to Orange in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Kilbourne.

Liberty finished 18-8 overall and was runner-up (8-2) in the OCC-Buckeye to the Pioneers (10-0).

A seven-member senior class was led by outside hitter Claranne Fechter, a Campbell commit who had team highs in kills (341) and digs (411). Other top seniors were defensive specialists Sydney Novy (388 digs) and Brooke Hammons and outside hitters Raegan Rosi and Sarah Rausch.

Junior setter Logan Flaugh is a Xavier commit who led with 696 assists and should be among the top returnees with juniors Sydney Reed (defensive specialist), Abby Roubinek (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Ali Sebenoler (middle hitter).

Others eligible to return include junior Madison Tinsley (defensive specialist), sophomores McKenna Cook (outside hitter/right-side hitter) and Michelle Ezenekwe (middle hitter) and freshmen Katherine Donahue (middle hitter), Gabi Moulton (setter/right-side hitter) and Nicole Russell (middle hitter).

"I'm proud of everything they've done as a group," coach Jen Chapman said. "Between (the players we lost to graduation from last season) and battling injuries, it's been one of those years, so I've been happy because I feel like we faced some adversity as a group. We had some underclassmen step into replacement roles and this group of seniors we knew was a special group. We'll be missing some pieces, but I think we've got a good young group that will be back next year."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek