Columbus Academy Roundup: Luke Nester shows he's 'real deal' as runner
The first time Columbus Academy cross country coach Denny Hammond noticed Luke Nester, the standout senior runner for the Vikings boys team was competing in a different sport.
Hammond was training with his runners when he saw Nester, then a seventh-grader at the school, playing goalie in soccer.
Believing Nester could be a solid runner, Hammond persuaded him to join the program. Six years later, Nester is winding down a record-setting cross country career with the Vikings.
“(Hammond) is the reason why I’m here and the times I’m running and actually in this sport in the first place,” Nester said. “I used to be a scrubby soccer player; I wasn’t that good. I was just fast and he convinced me to run year-round. That was definitely the best decision for me. He always told me I didn’t know how good I could be.”
Nester entered the postseason seeking his fourth consecutive state berth. He has reset the program record several times, with his top effort of 15 minutes, 45 seconds established last season in the Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington.
“He’s a talented kid,” Hammond said. “He’s everything you want in a distance runner. He works his butt off and he’s got that killer attitude. He’s a competitor. He’s got those things you can’t coach. He’s the only person to break 16 minutes here and he’s done it five times. He’s the real deal.”
Academy competed in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17 at Buckeye Valley, with Nester leading the Vikings by finishing second (16:38.09) of 46 runners behind Grandview’s Derek Amicon (16:20.31).
Nester and Amicon have become friends over the years and will compete again in the spring during track and field. The Vikings compete in Division II and Grandview is in Division III during the cross country postseason.
“There’s no shame in second place,” Nester said. “Derek and I like racing each other. It’s a friendly rivalry. I always look forward to racing him. He’s got me a couple of times, I’ve got him a couple times. He’s got me more than I’ve got him, but it’s always fun to race against him.”
Amicon is the defending state champion in Division III.
Also in the league meet, Jake Huddleston was fourth (17:41.06) for Academy as it finished second (50) of seven teams behind Bexley (35).
The Vikings competed in the district 1 meet Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby, with the top three teams and top 12 runners advancing to regional Saturday, Oct. 31, at Pickerington North.
Last season at state, Nester was contending for a top spot before getting tripped and losing a shoe. He settled for 107th (17:20) of 182 runners, but that racing mishap provided motivation heading into this season.
“I was in 15th or 16th place at the mile and I got tripped up in the woods and had a shoe fall off,” Nester said. “That’s been some great motivation.”
As a sophomore competing in the Division III state meet, Nester finished 36th (17:24.2) of 181 runners to lead the Vikings.
He was 30th (16:44.2) at state as a freshman, leading Academy to a third-place finish (144) behind champion East Canton (120) in Division III.
Nester also is a standout in track, specializing in the 1,600 meters and 3,200. He was disappointed when the spring season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“He ran some great workouts this spring (and) we were ready to roll,” Hammond said. “It’s all about him. He does it all on his own. He doesn’t need anybody to motivate him. He’s great kid (from) a great family. (He's) all those things that you want.”
Nester, who lives in Powell, plans on running in college and will base his school selection on academics.
“It feels nice to be wanted,” Nester said. “The focus is definitely academics. I’m trying to use running to get into a good academic school.”
The girls team finished fifth (104) of six teams in the league meet behind champion Bexley (30). Regan Cornelius finished second of 43 runners in 20:00.36 to lead the Vikings.
Academy opened the postseason in the district 2 race, with the top three teams and top 12 runners advancing to regional.
Girls soccer team
wins tourney opener
The girls soccer team opened the Division III district tournament with a 7-0 win over 14th-seeded Madison Plains on Oct. 19.
Zoya Arnold, Claire Cahall, Aniah Crockett, Jasmine Evans, Mary Kate Prall, Katie Schiano and Maggie Walther scored for Academy.
The sixth-seeded Vikings were 6-3-2 before playing second-seeded Columbus School for Girls on Oct. 24. The winner played third-seeded Wellington or seventh-seeded Liberty Union in a semifinal Oct. 27, with that winner advancing to a district final Saturday, Oct. 31, and the district champion playing in a regional semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Boys soccer team
looks to rebound
After losing four of five games to end the regular season, the boys soccer team looked to bounce back in the Division III district tournament.
The third-seeded Vikings were 7-6-2 before playing 11th-seeded Madison Christian or 18th-seeded Harvest Prep in the second round Oct. 26.
The winner played sixth-seeded Grove City Christian or eighth-seeded Liberty Union in a semifinal Oct. 28, with that winner advancing to a district final Saturday, Oct. 31, and the district champion playing in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Nov. 4.