Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Girls runners expecting to make move

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Junior Olivia Perry is among the top returnees for the Gahanna Lincoln girls cross country team and 15th-year coach Ernie Ziegler.

With most of its lineup returning after it finished sixth in last year's Division I regional meet, the Gahanna Lincoln girls cross country team could end this season on an even higher note.

The Lions are hoping junior Alyssa Shope -- who again is expected to be their No. 1 runner after finishing 31st (19 minutes, 52.7 seconds) at regional to miss advancing to state by 11 spots -- will return soon from a preseason hip injury.

Seniors Elise Wunderlin and Megan Massmann and junior Olivia Perry are other returnees for Gahanna, which next competes Saturday, Sept. 19, in the Bob Reall Invitational at Lancaster.

"These girls have worked really hard and a lot of them have sacrificed a lot," 15th-year coach Ernie Ziegler said. "We have a lot of returners from last year's team that had varsity experience, but they were all really young. We're still pretty young, but I think we can be pretty good this year. We think we've got a team that's one of the top two or three in the region."

Gahanna, which placed sixth (162) in the 10-team Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 5 at Hilliard Davidson behind the champion and host Wildcats (31), has been led by Perry during Shope's absence.

Senior Gabriella Sophocleous and junior Hannah Reich also are key runners.

Others who have been battling for spots in the top seven are seniors Olivia Keener and Jenna Olinger, junior Sophie Gartland, sophomores Eliza Brofford, Maya Rubin and Eliza Brofford and freshmen Addy Galloway and Eden Newman.

Last season, Shope was third in the OCC-Ohio Division meet as Gahanna won the championship. After OCC realignment, the Lions are in the OCC-Ohio with fellow holdovers Grove City and Pickerington North and newcomers New Albany, Westland and Westerville Central.

Boys cross country team has new look

The boys cross country team followed a seventh-place finish in the 2018 Division I state meet by placing fourth last season, but it likely will be a challenge to approach those finishes this fall.

The Lions lost their top three runners -- Riley Jackson, Ben Towler and Ryan Mehalic -- to graduation after a season in which they were runners-up in the OCC-Ohio and won titles at the district and regional levels.

Sophomore Alex Eggleston has returned after being the Lions' No. 4 runner and placing 87th (16:38.3) at state. Jackson was 21st (15:52.2) to lead Gahanna.

Also returning are senior Donovan Hight, who was 134th (16:58.7) at state, and senior Connor Hughes-Hemsoth, who was 144th (17:03.4).

"We're really young," eighth-year coach Ryan Beck said. "We actually may be a little deeper than we were last year, but for four of our top seven, (our opening meet Aug. 24) was literally the first race they'd actually run in. Varsity races are different. The speed is different (and) the intensity is different. We'll get there."

Sophomore Abinur Sileshi and freshman K'tyo Hendershott have been among the team's top four runners.

Sophomores Charles Slates and Owen Huzicka and freshman Noah Long also have been key runners for Gahanna, which was ninth (244) in the 13-team Hot Summer Bash behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (46).

Seniors Benjamin Workman, Ryan Amer, Ethan Huang and Isaiah Rowe, junior Jordan Anderson, sophomore William Michael and freshmen Eian Washington and David Cremean also are looking to contribute.

"I thought our sophomore class would be a really good class," Beck said. "They've done a really good job training and they look strong. It's about the race experience for us. We're a team where everyone has a position and has a role they're comfortable with."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

At a glance

CROSS COUNTRY

*Coaches: Boys -- Ryan Beck, eighth season; Girls -- Ernie Ziegler, 15th season

*Top athletes: Boys -- K'tyo Hendershott, Donovan Hight, Connor Hughes-Hemsoth, Abinur Sileshi and Charles Slates; Girls -- Olivia Perry, Hannah Reich, Alyssa Shope, Gabriella Sophocleous and Elise Wunderlin

*Key losses: Boys -- Riley Jackson, Ryan Mehalic, Caleb Shovlin and Ben Towler; Girls -- Natalie Clay, Riley Dickson and Tara Shope

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Boys -- Pickerington North (33), Gahanna (36), Lancaster (78), Pickerington Central (104), Reynoldsburg (110), Grove City (173); Girls -- Gahanna (40), Lancaster (47), North (76), Central (92), Reynoldsburg (112), Grove City (172)

*2019 postseason: Boys -- First at district, first at regional, fourth at state; Girls -- Third at district, sixth at regional