DeSales Roundup: 'Close' approach helping cross country teams thrive

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
DeSales boys cross country runners, from left, Isaiah Rush, Adam Weithman and Aidan Shannon run together during practice Oct. 12 at the Park of Roses. Both the boys and girls team have run as a tight pack throughout the season and alternated their top finishers. Shannon was the boys team's top runner three times and Weithman twice before the CCL meet Oct. 17.

DeSales cross country coach Amy Schockling expected during summer workouts that her first team as a head coach would be “close,” largely in terms of relationships. 

The Stallions have turned out to be closer than Schockling expected in another important aspect, however, a trend she hopes continues as the postseason begins Saturday, Oct. 24, with district meets at Hilliard Darby. 

Both the boys and girls teams have had several races this season in which their top five have been separated by less than a minute, decreasing team scores. In their final tune-up for the CCL meet Oct. 17, the boys’ top five had a pack time of 35.2 seconds and the girls followed suit at 41.8 seconds — both season bests — during the Panther Invitational on Oct. 3 at Pickerington North. 

“They’re always looking out for each other, so I’m not at all surprised to see they are running like this,” Schockling said. “They’re stronger together. That’s what we tell them before every race … and they’ll see the results that way.” 

The boys’ top-five pack times ranged between 35.2 seconds and 1 minute, 4.97 seconds during the regular season, and 1:15.4 and 1:37.34 for the top seven. 

The girls had a similar range, from 41.8 seconds to 1:30.1 for the top five and 1:27.8 to 2:40.9 for the top seven. 

While teams and the top seven runners themselves were consistent, the leaders changed. 

Sophomore Aidan Shannon was the boys’ top runner three times in six races leading up to the CCL meet. Senior Adam Weithman led the way twice and freshman Luke Aaron did so once. 

For the girls, junior Audrey Callahan and freshman Mary McAllister evenly split the top spot through six races. 

“We knew the top several spots were going to be alternating a lot,” Weithman said, adding that several runners felt a responsibility to replace 2020 graduate John Shoemaker, a Division II state qualifier last year who also advanced to regional as a junior. “My goal for the year was be our No. 1 runner at least twice. I am getting there. With the pack we have, we’ve been trying to pull (freshman) Neal (Ritchie) up with us. We want to have that close pack like we had last year.” 

Callahan said she saw potential in McAllister during training runs at a 3.8-mile loop at Sharon Woods Metro Park.  

“I was pushing (McAllister) but she was giving off the same energy back to me. I knew right then that we had potential,” Callahan said. “You have to find someone to run with. When you’re with someone else on the team, it’s a lot easier.” 

The boys team will participate in the Division II, district 2 meet, from which the top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North. 

The girls team is in Division 1, district 1. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regional. 

While the boys are trying for their second consecutive regional appearance, the girls have not advanced that far as a team since 2014. 

“We can get to (the) regional,” Weithman said. “We just have to keep our pack together.” 

Melina McSweeny was among three seniors in the DeSales girls golf team's top five this season.

Girls golf season

ends at district 

Senior Amanda Pancake of the girls golf team ended her prep career where she had finished her previous two seasons, in the Division I district tournament. 

Pancake shot an 87 on Oct. 13 at New Albany Links to land in a four-way tie for 29th place out of 54 golfers but fall short of a state berth. 

“They put the pins in some great spots. Nobody was coming out and shooting a 68 or something incredibly low,” coach Charlie Mitchell said. “We went to district as a team a few years ago (2018) but I don’t know if a single player ever has advanced here three years in a row. That’s outstanding. (Pancake) has a lot of game. I have some players who can consistently shoot 78 to 82. From where this program used to be, we’re a good CCL team. We aren’t the best team in the city, but we are competitive.” 

DeSales graduates three of its top five in Faith Corn, Melina McSweeny and Pancake. Juniors Lizzy Gutman and Sarah Stevens and freshman Lucy Wills are eligible to return. 

The Stallions wrapped up their third consecutive CCL title Oct. 10 at NorthStar, shooting 351 in the league postseason tournament to finish 5-1 in the league. Pancake shot an 82 to lead DeSales, one shot ahead of Corn. 

Top tennis players

expected back 

Although the girls tennis team’s season ended Oct. 8 in a Division I sectional tournament at Pickerington Central, several of its top players are eligible to return in juniors Molly Ballard, Kat Jolley and Pascaline Ndayishimye and sophomores Ella Dingman and Maddie Hill. 

Ballard went a team-best 19-7 at first singles and was 2-1 at sectional, losing to Lancaster’s Mallory Thomas 6-3, 6-4 in a district-qualifying match. Dingman and Jolley went 1-1 in doubles for the team’s other sectional victory and finished with 14 wins overall, as did the Stallions’ other doubles team of senior Amelia Zaremba and Ndayishimye. 

Senior Evie Brainard and Hill each went 0-1 in singles. 

“I thought we did a really good job competing amongst a deep field,” coach Tom Snyder said. “Even in the matches we lost, we put forth a tremendous effort and at the end of the day, that's all you’re really asking for. On each court that we lost, they were competitive matches, including two three-set matches.” 

DeSales finished 13-6 overall and 2-1 in the CCL, second behind Watterson (3-0), which won its third consecutive league championship. 

Snyder said perhaps the highlight of the season was the progression of his singles players.  

“Maddie (at second singles) and Evie (at third singles) settled into their spots in the lineup and they took some pressure off of Molly needing to win for the team to have a chance to win,” Snyder said. “(Hill) gained confidence throughout the season and to see her come through for us when we needed her was big.” 

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekDave 

GIRLS GOLF 

CCL standings: DeSales (5-1), Hartley (3-3), Watterson (3-3), Ready (1-5)

Seniors lost: Faith Corn, Melina McSweeny and Amanda Pancake 

Key returnees: Lizzy Gutman, Sarah Stevens and Lucy Wills 

Postseason: Seventh (395) at sectional behind champion Dublin Coffman (331) 

GIRLS TENNIS 

Record: 13-6 overall 

CCL standings: Watterson (3-0), DeSales (2-1), Hartley (1-2), Ready (0-3) 

Seniors lost: Evie Brainard and Amelia Zaremba 

Key returnees: Molly Ballard, Ella Dingman, Maddie Hill, Kat Jolley and Pascaline Ndayishimye