Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions girls cross country team perseveres in challenging season

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Gahanna Lincoln's Alyssa Shope had good reason to be smiling Oct. 17 during the OCC-Ohio meet at Pickerington Central. The junior won the race in 18 minutes, 55 seconds as the girls team placed second behind Pickerington North.

Staying focused on basic goals in the sport, like pack running and individually dropping time, hasn’t come without challenges this fall for the Gahanna Lincoln girls cross country team. 

The Lions spent the first six weeks of the season without junior Alyssa Shope as she recovered from a hip injury, then lost one of their five seniors, Megan Massmann, to a season-ending injury at midseason. 

The teacher’s strike that lasted six days in mid-October kept both girls coach Ernie Ziegler and boys coach Ryan Beck from guiding their teams during the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17 at Pickerington Central. 

Elise Wunderlin – who has been among the team’s top five runners all season and is part of a senior class that also includes Gabriella Sophocleous, Olivia Keener and Jenna Olinger – has battled through shin splints. 

With all that in mind, Wunderlin and her teammates might be at their most comfortable when they’ve been competing. 

At the league meet, the girls team scored 50 points to finish second behind Pickerington North (49). 

“We’ve made it kind of normal,” Wunderlin said. “Right now, with the strike and everything we’ve had, (assistant coach) Ari (Redmond) has stepped up and has been leading us, giving us what we need to do with our race plans. (Shope) finally came back and was a big help.” 

The district meet was Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby. The girls competed in district 3, where the top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to the regional Saturday, Oct. 31, at Pickerington North. 

The boys competed in district 1, where the top five teams and top 20 individuals moved on to the regional. 

Redmond is a 2019 Gahanna graduate who joined the staff under Ziegler this fall. 

“It’s been a lot on the seniors and captains to just keep a positive attitude and keep the spirits up on the team,” Redmond said. “We’ve been constantly improving throughout the season. We’ve been working on building our pack and making our pack stronger and I think we’re ready to go out and pull it all together.” 

Shope captured the title at the league meet in 18 minutes, 55 seconds, and she was followed by freshman Addy Galloway (seventh, 20:16.5), junior Olivia Perry (ninth, 20:25.9), Wunderlin (15th, 21:10.7), sophomore Eliza Brofford (18th, 21:23.3), Sophocleous (20th, 21:32.3) and Keener (21st, 21:37.1). 

The boys finished third (63) at the league meet behind New Albany (35) and Pickerington North (61). 

Sophomore Alex Eggleston was ninth (17:12.6) to lead the Lions, followed by senior Donovan Hight (11th, 17:14.3), sophomore Charles Slates (12th, 17:14.5), senior Connor Hughes-Hemsoth (15th, 17:17.8), sophomore Abinur Sileshi (16th, 17:24.8), freshman K’Tyo Hendershott (17th, 17:25.2) and senior Ben Workman (21st, 17:45.3). 

“Feeling good about the season,” Beck said. “We haven’t run up to our potential yet; still waiting to fire on all cylinders. Our young guys have made a lot of progress, and we think we’re coming into form at the right time. New Albany, Westerville Central and Pickerington North are all very solid, well-coached teams. … This team has remained positive in the face of so many challenges.” 

The Lions' Abinur Sileshi (left) and K'Tyo Hendershott compete in the OCC-Ohio meet Oct. 17 at Pickerington North. The boys team finished third.

Tennis team to return 

majority of lineup 

The girls tennis doubles team of junior Caroline Mattox and sophomore Frankie Nuss ended their season with a 6-3, 6-0 loss to New Albany’s Helen Wang and Demi Shostak in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 15 at Reynoldsburg. 

They were the third seed and entered district after earning a runner-up finish at the sectional Oct. 8 and 10 at Hilliard Davidson. 

The only senior was Emily Innis, who lost a singles feed-in match at the sectional. 

Also competing in the postseason  in singles were junior Aubrey Thomas, who reached a quarterfinal, and sophomore Natalie Garcia, who lost in the second round. 

In doubles at the sectional, junior Sophie Graham and sophomore Alana Amer lost in the second round. 

Nuss played first singles much of the season with Thomas at No. 2 and Mattox at No. 3. 

The Lions finished third at 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio behind New Albany (5-0) and Westerville Central (4-1). 

“Frankie and Caroline played in the first doubles flight at Davidson on Sept. 19 and they had a lot of fun,” coach Chris Schwinnen said. “It gave them an opportunity for some really good tennis. 

“We finished third at 3-2 in the OCC and we’d love to get that Westerville Central match (which Gahanna lost 3-2 on Sept. 1) back. We finished 14-9, which is about the same as last year.” 

Football team 

closes with win 

The football team built a 21-0 halftime lead and closed its season with a 31-14 victory Oct. 16 at Lancaster. 

After losing 21-7 to Hilliard Darby in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs Oct. 9, the Lions added a non-league contest the next day against the Golden Gales but aren't expecting to add any further games. 

Gahanna and Lancaster had been members of the OCC-Ohio Division since 1997 until the Golden Gales were moved to the OCC-Buckeye starting this fall. 

Gahanna finished 4-4 and Lancaster dropped to 2-6. 

Ronald Blackman ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries and added two receptions for 68 yards and one score.  

Brendan Raymond had one reception for 54 yards, and quarterback Trey Burger completed five of eight passes for 128 yards.

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

GIRLS TENNIS 

•Record: 14-9 overall 

•OCC-Ohio standings: New Albany (5-0), Westerville Central (4-1), Gahanna (3-2), Pickerington North (2-3), Grove City (1-4), Westland (0-5) 

•Senior lost: Emily Innis 

•Key returnees: Alana Amer, Natalie Garcia, Sophie Graham, Caroline Mattox, Frankie Nuss and Aubrey Thomas