Girls Cross Country: Panthers maintain high expectations

STEPHEN BORGNA
sborgna@thisweeknews.com
Senior Krystal Singh is expected to be among the top performers for Darby and fourth-year coach Jon Agriesti.

The Hilliard Darby girls cross country team experienced both individual and team success last season, and the Panthers are looking to replicate that this year.

Darby is seeking to finish near the top of the OCC-Cardinal Division after placing fourth and aiming to qualify for the Division I regional again after finishing 14th.

"We want to finish top two in the OCC-Cardinal Division," fourth-year coach Jon Agriesti said. "With realignment we have a tougher conference. We (also) want to qualify to the regional meet again and get an individual or two to state."

The Panthers are without three-time state qualifier Daniella Santos, a 2020 graduate who finished 15th (18 minutes, 19.6 seconds) of 183 runners last season and committed to Ohio State.

Seniors Madison Brokaw and Krystal Singh, juniors Alivia Cannon, Sydney Biedenharn, Jessie Govine and Mia Wyngarden and sophomore Kara Martin are expected to be among the top runners for the Panthers.

"We're rebuilding after the loss of Santos," Agriesti said. "We have three to four experienced girls and then we need to keep working on our pack to round out the team."

The girls race at the New Albany Classic on Aug. 24 was canceled because of bad weather, but Darby scored 25 points to defeat Watkins Memorial (30) in a dual meet Sept 2.

Singh was second (12:19.96) of 43 runners behind Watkins Memorial's Cameryn Wheeler (12:12.39) in a race that was shortened to two miles, followed by Biedenharn (third, 13:02.45), Cannon (fourth, 13:13.39), Wyngarden (seventh, 13:32.97) and Martin (ninth, 13:41.08).

The Panthers competed in the Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 5 at Davidson, where they finished ninth (214) behind champion Gahanna (49).

Singh led the Panthers by placing 21st (20:44.49), followed by Biedenharn (30th, 21:04.22), Cannon (35th, 21:09.7), Martin (67th, 22:50.61), Wyngarden (70th, 23:03.19), Brokaw (75th, 23:30.56) and Govine (82nd, 24:05.7).

Wildcats have usual postseason goals

Davidson coach Nate King has always put less emphasis on the regular season, focusing instead on the postseason.

That approach will be no different this fall in King's ninth season.

Coming off a strong postseason in which they won district and regional titles and finished third at the Division I state meet with 132 points, behind Beavercreek (51) and Liberty Township Lakota East (121), the Wildcats are gearing up for a similar performance.

"Our focus is the postseason," King said. "The regular season is going to take on more checkpoint races and all of it is going to be geared towards developing toward the postseason, which it always is.

"We always focus on regional and state, but this year it's even more so because of how different and low key the regular-season meets will be."

Senior Lindsay Stull, who was the top runner for the Wildcats last year and finished seventh (18:05) at state, is sidelined with a right foot injury. She is expected to be ready for the postseason, however.

"You like to build up in the hopes that your senior year you're doing the most that you can," said Stull, who is a three-time state qualifier. "It's tough not being able to do it, but there's other ways that I can help and still be a part of the team. I don't think it changes my position on the team, it shifts it a little. Instead of leading by example, I'm trying to support the other girls."

With Stull out of the lineup, sophomore Caitlyn Jones, a transfer from Bradley, has moved into the No. 1 spot. Jones finished 43rd (19:08.3) at state competing for the Jaguars a year ago.

"Caitlyn moved to the Davidson area during the school year last year in the winter," King said. "Her training level is very advanced and she's working on blending her talents into the team format. As her season goes on, her racing skills will improve and she should be a low scorer for her team."

Junior Alyssa Mason has been running in the second spot, followed by sophomore Dillon Sweetman, senior Justine Smith, freshman Sophie Lane, senior Sofia Bishoff, sophomore Keagan Gehring and senior Calla Edmonds.

Davidson was ranked first ahead of Centerville through Week 2 in the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Division I state poll.

At their home Hot Summer Bash meet Sept. 5, the Wildcats placed first (31) ahead of runner-up Granville (47). Mason placed third (19:00) to pace Davidson, which had five of the top nine individuals.

After OCC realignment, the Wildcats are competing in the OCC-Central with Bradley, Dublin Coffman, Olentangy Liberty, Olentangy Orange and Upper Arlington.

--Frank DiRenna

Jaguars working to build culture

Bradley returns only two varsity runners from last season in senior Amber Figueroa and sophomore Samantha Hosni.

The Jaguars had a Division I state qualifier last fall in sophomore Caitlyn Jones, who finished 43rd (19:08.3) and now is competing for Davidson.

"We only have two varsity level runners back from last year in Amber and Samantha," second-year coach Tyler Ison said. "We have a lot of freshmen (six) and sophomores (seven), but not a lot of seniors (three) or juniors (four) so we're pretty young."

Ison said his team was behind, as training didn't begin until mid-July because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"It definitely has been an interesting year," he said. "I think we're trying to build the culture and integrate the girls into that as soon as possible. Culture is big in a mental sport like cross country. You need to have a good culture to have the right mindset toward racing."

Ison said other top performers include juniors Jessica Barton and Sara McClory and freshman Paige Knupp.

Hosni (22nd, 25:28.3), Figueroa (24th, 26:02.2) and sophomore Ruby Gierman (25th, 26:24.0) led the Jaguars in a three-team meet with Dublin Scioto and Westerville Central on Aug. 29. Central edged Scioto 27-28 and Bradley (85) was third.

Knupp (31st, 27:28.7), Barton (32nd. 27:42.1), junior Olivia Seiler (34th, 27:51.0) and sophomore Ella Kimple (37th, 28:13.80 21) rounded out the top seven for Bradley.

"Building a culture comes through relationship-building and ends with the upperclassmen and underclassmen working together," Ison said. "It gives them an opportunity to build that culture, not only in the running environment but outside of it as well."

--Scott Hennen

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At a glance

HILLIARD BRADLEY

*Coach: Tyler Ison, second season

*Top athletes: Amber Figueroa, Ruby Gierman and Samantha Hosni

*Key losses: Caitlyn Jones and Byann Rasul

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas Worthington (51), Worthington Kilbourne (64), Olentangy Berlin (79), Darby (91), Dublin Jerome (99), Dublin Scioto (161), Delaware (204), Bradley (217)

*2019 postseason: 12th at district

HILLIARD DARBY

*Coach: Jon Agriesti, fourth season

*Top athletes: Alivia Cannon, Sydney Biedenharn, Madison Brokaw, Jessica Govine, Kara Martin and Krystal Singh

*Key loss: Daniella Santos

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas (51), Kilbourne (64), Berlin (79), Darby (91), Jerome (99), Scioto (161), Delaware (204), Bradley (217)

*2019 postseason: Fifth at district, 14th at regional

HILLIARD DAVIDSON

*Coach: Nate King, ninth season

*Top athletes: Caitlyn Jones and Lindsay Stull

*Key losses: Sophia Hoersten and Sydney Petersen

*2019 OCC-Central standings: Davidson (15), Dublin Coffman (65), Marysville (68), Upper Arlington (95)

*2019 postseason: First at district, first at regional, third at state