Columbus Academy Roundup: Hammond closes coaching career at state cross country meet

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Academy's Luke Nester runs with a pack Nov. 7 during the Division II state meet at Fortress Obetz. Nester, one of seven seniors on the boys team, finished 16th overall to earn all-state honors.

It seemed fitting that cross country coach Denny Hammond’s final meet at Columbus Academy came in the sport’s pinnacle event.

Hammond stepped down after six seasons and also said he will not coach the track and field program after serving in that position for five years.

“Coach Hammond helped teach me the value of hard work and how it will always win over natural talent," senior Regan Cornelius said. “His support and advice over the years has helped me grow as a person, athlete and leader and not having him back will be a huge blow to the program that he has led to its some of its most successful years.” 

Hammond’s final event was the Division II state meet Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz with seniors Jake Huddleston and Luke Nester competing for the boys and Cornelius for the girls. 

Nester, a four-time state qualifier, finished 16th of 168 runners in 16 minutes, 13 seconds to earn all-state recognition. 

“The offseason training helped and being focused on the little things has really helped,” Nester said. 

Huddleston was 107th (17:41.6). 

“I ran OK,” Huddleston said. “I thought I was going to get at least 16:40, but that didn’t happen unfortunately. It was very hot for November. … I’m very happy with my career.” 

Cornelius finished 77th of 177 runners in 20:24.2. 

“It’s definitely a little physically tiring, but I pulled myself together mentally and I was happy that I finished the season,” she said. “I definitely have no regrets. I love the team. I love the coaches.” 

Hammond was pleased with the performances of his runners. 

“I’m very happy,” Hammond said. “These are three captains. They’re all-academic all-Ohio. All three of them have over a 4.0 (grade-point average). I’m very pleased.” 

Competing in the eight-team district 1 race Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby, the boys team finished fourth (85) behind champion Heath (47). 

Nester won in 16:27.5, and Huddleston was seventh (17:04.9). 

Nester advanced to state after finishing 14th (16:55.9) at regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North. Huddleston was 25th (17:08.7) as the top 28 runners advanced. 

Academy finished second (50) in the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17 at Buckeye Valley behind Bexley (35). 

Nester was second (16:38.1) and Huddleston was fourth (17:41.1). 

The girls team finished seventh (164) in the eight-team section 2 race at the district meet behind champion Bexley (41). 

Cornelius finished seventh (19:53.8) to lead the Vikings, and she was 23rd (20:18.1) at regional to earn the state berth. 

Cornelius led Academy in the MSL-Ohio meet, finishing second in 20:00.4 as the Vikings placed fifth (104) behind champion Bexley (30). 

Hammond, 64, led the program at Reynoldsburg for 17 years, stepping down before the 2012 season. 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekFrank 

•MSL-Ohio standings: Boys – Bexley (35), Columbus Academy (50), Grandview (64), Buckeye Valley (87), Worthington Christian (131), Whitehall (181), Wellington (189); Girls – Bexley (30), Buckeye Valley (54), Grandview (78), Columbus School for Girls (99), Academy (104), Whitehall (170) 

•Seniors lost: Boys – Liam Haywood, Jake Huddleston, Luke Nester, Cooper Schnitzer, Skyler Simpson, Calvin Wade and Vincent White; Girls – Regan Cornelius 

•Key returnees: Boys – Peter Heermann and Cyrus Richardson; Girls – Julia DeVore, Samantha Frickel, Caitlynn Hinds and Madeline Proctor 

•Postseason: Boys – Fourth (85) at district behind champion Heath (47); Girls – Seventh (164) at district behind champion Bexley (41)