Cross Country: Hilliard Davidson girls flex depth with state runner-up finish

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Hilliard Davidson's Dillon Sweetman, right, placed 17th overall to lead the girls cross country team to a second-place finish at the Division I state meet Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz.

As the Hilliard Davidson girls cross country team posed with its runner-up trophy, Centerville celebrated nearby after winning the Division I state meet Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz. 

The underclassmen took note of the Elks’ celebration and quickly set their sights on next season. 

“We have to keep working and keep working together as much as we can, and be the best team that we can be together and help each other,” said sophomore Dillon Sweetman, who led the Wildcats at state by finishing 17th in 18 minutes, 39.2 seconds. 

The Wildcats led at the one-mile and two-mile marks before Centerville rallied for the title, with the Elks’ Mia Robillard (17:58.5) and Emma Bucher (17:59.8) taking the top two spots. 

It was Davidson’s ninth top-10 finish at state in the past 10 seasons and their best performance since winning the title in 2002. 

Sophomore Caitlyn Jones, a transfer from Bradley, was 19th in 18:41.1 and earned all-state honors along with Sweetman.  

“We all have such a strong love for the sport and we all know what it takes to win,” Mason said. “We worked really hard this year.” 

Also competing for the Wildcats were junior Alyssa Mason was (37th, 19:08.8) sophomore Keegan Gehring (67th, 19:30.4), freshman Sophie Lane (68th, 19:30.8), senior Lindsay Stull (83rd, 19:42.6) and senior Justine Smith (170th, 22:35.7). 

“We have a lot of balance and our top five scorers are underclassmen returning next year, so that’s pretty sweet,” coach Nate King said. 

Stull and Smith missed most of the regular season with foot injuries, and Stull signed with Penn State on Nov. 11.  

A year ago Stull was eighth (18:05.8) at state as the Wildcats finished third (132) behind Beavercreek (51) and Lakota East (121).  

“We’re thrilled about our season,” King said. “(COVID-19), combined with injuries to two of our top five runners (Smith and Stull) presented us with the toughest set of obstacles we’ve ever faced. The girls took them head-on and used them as fuel rather than an excuse. 

“To achieve state runner-up without two of your top five speaks volumes to the program as a whole, creating the depth to fill critical roles on the team when it was needed the most.” 

The Wildcats easily won league, district and regional titles, and Jones won district (18:31.8) and league (18:34.5) races. 

Davidson's Nate Gilbert, right, was one of 10 seniors on the boys team, which finished sixth at the state meet.

Wildcats boys team caps another strong season

The boys team completed its season by finishing sixth (189) at state behind champion West Chester Lakota West (73). 

Sophomore Connor Ackley finished 11th (15:48.5) and junior Nick Puhl was 14th (15:53.1) to earn all-state. 

Nate Gilbert – one of the team's 10 seniors – was 83rd (16:45.2), followed by senior Noah Pease (91st, 16:49.1), junior Alex Hudson (100th, 16:56.8), freshman Brody Boyd (119th, 17:05) and senior R.J. Sagrilla (132nd, 17:15.1). 

“This isn’t what we expected at all,” Pease said. “We had a different outlook the whole season in training for first (at state). That’s why we worked all winter, all quarantine, all summer, so this hurts a lot to only finish (sixth). Davidson’s program is known for being good. 

“My freshman and sophomore years we were runner-up, and last year it was seventh. I don’t know, something just happened today.” 

Ackley, who broke his program record with a time of 14:59.67 to win the Celtic Clash on Sept. 26 at Dublin Jerome, captured regional (15:44.6), district (15:44.5) and league (15:38.7) titles. 

Davidson also swept regional, district and league titles. 

–Frank DiRenna

Sean Carney, Darby's only representative at the state meet, closed his prep career with a 12th-place finish.

Darby's Carney closes career by finishing 12th at state 

Senior Sean Carney of the Darby boys team capped his senior season as the Panthers’ lone representative at the regional and state meets. 

Carney finished 12th in 15:49.7 at the Division I state meet to earn all-state honors. Nathan Moore of Uniontown Lake (14:59.5) won the title.

Carney improved three spots over last year when he finished 15th (15:48). 

Coach Matthew Fox said he was impressed with Carney’s performance after he fell behind early.   

“I loved his effort,” he said. “He got a little pinned in the first mile and was back in the 30s, but made it all the way to 12th over the last two miles. I’m really excited for his track season.” 

Carney took first (15:50.4) at the OCC-Cardinal meet at Pickerington Central on Oct. 17 as the Panthers finished fifth (117) behind Dublin Jerome (31), Thomas Worthington (63), Olentangy Berlin (65) and Olentangy (86) and ahead of Marysville (148).  

Carney earned first-team all-league, and junior Jake Long was third-team.  

Carney finished first (15:42.2) at the district and third (15:55.5) at the regional. 

“Overall, I’m happy with the growth and the way the team responded to adversity,” Fox said.  

The Panthers will lose seniors Braden Bower, Ryan Bugg, Caleb Nelles and Avery Lyle to graduation.  

Among those expected to return are Long, junior Aidan Koppenhofer and sophomores Collins Applegate and George Hughes.  

–Stephen Borgna

Panthers girls team ends season at regional  

The Darby girls team concluded its season with two individual qualifiers at the regional.  

Senior Krystal Singh finished 30th (20:19.71) and junior Sydney Biedenharn was 46th (20:37.18) as champion Alyssa Shope of Gahanna (18:40.46) won the title.  

Singh was 13th (19:48.0) and Biedenharn was 18th (19:58.9) to advance as individuals to the regional. 

Singh took first (20:05.4) at the OCC-Cardinal meet and Biedenharn placed third (20:07.3). 

Junior Alivia Cannon earned second-team all-league honors.

“This season proved to be a very tough season,” coach Jon Agriesti said. “COVID-19 kept us from practicing the way we would have liked to. We were limited from going to metro parks where we could get to hills and cross country-like terrain.  

"We had to practice off-site for most of the summer, and many girls were nervous about the season, which impacted us greatly. Having said that, the 2020 team performed well at the end of the season.  

“Our timing was a bit off for districts, and we didn’t make the regional meet. But like most teams, we had a lot of obstacles to overcome to make this season what it was. The girls that finished the season did a great job and gave it all they had.”  

Biedenharn and Cannon are expected to lead a group of returnees, including juniors Mia Wyngarden, Jessie Govine and Grace Pitt and sophomores Kara Martin and Morgan Baker.  

–Stephen Borgna

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DARBY

•OCC-Cardinal standings: Boys – Jerome (31), Thomas Worthington (63), Berlin (65), Olentangy (86), Darby (117) and Marysville (148); Girls – Jerome (45), Berlin (73), Marysville (77), Darby (78), Thomas (113) and Olentangy (129) 

•Seniors lost: Boys – Braden Bower, Ryan Bugg, Caleb Nelles and Avery Lyle; Girls – Madison Brokaw, Taylor Clark, Samantha Dicke, Kuri Dove, Emily Ehrle and Krystal Singh  

•Key returnees: Boys – Aidan Koppenhofer and Collins Applegate, George Hughes, Aidan Koppenhofer and Jake Long; Girls –  Morgan Baker, Sydney Biedenharn, Alivia Cannon, Jessie Govine, Kara Martin, Grace Pitt and Mia Wyngarden  

•Postseason: Boys – Sixth (155) at the Division I district meet behind champion Jerome (53); Girls – ninth at district behind champion Coffman (55) 

DAVIDSON

•OCC-Central standings: Boys – Hilliard Davidson (32), Dublin Coffman (68), Olentangy Orange (86), Upper Arlington (90), Bradley (115), Olentangy Liberty (133);  Girls – Davidson (18), Coffman (67), UA (80), Orange (98), Liberty (100), Bradley (190) 

•Seniors lost: Boys – Adam Alsko, Henry Byrne, Jay Chung, Nate Gilbert, A.J. Hoying, Brayden Kulesza, Noah Pease, R.J. Sagrilla, Colin Schleappi and Tyler Schmidt; Girls – Sofia Bishoff, Gwen Duncan, Calla Edmonds, Louise Gagliano, Brianna Jones, Justine Smith, Vivian Smith and Lindsay Stull 

•Key returnees: Boys – Connor Ackley, Brody Boyd, Nick Puhl and Alex Hudson; Girls – Keegan Gehring, Caitlyn Jones, Sophie Lane, Alyssa Mason and Dillon Sweetman 

•Postseason: Boys – First (27) at district, first (57) at regional, sixth (189) at state; Girls – First (19) at district, first at regional (42), second (138) at state