Boys Cross Country: Olentangy Orange aiming for return trip to state

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Junior Bryan King is one of four returnees who competed at state last season for the Orange boys cross country team.

Coach Adam Walters is impressed by the initiative his Olentangy Orange boys cross country team has shown during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Pioneers are preparing to make a run at returning to the Division I state meet for the second consecutive season. They finished 18th (370 points) of 20 teams last season behind champion Cincinnati St. Xavier (92).

"We return an experienced group with some new talent that puts us in the conversation to qualify for the state championships again," said Walters, who is in his eighth season. "The runners trained very well on their own during quarantine and then we made the necessary adjustments to resume conditioning safely this summer.

"If we stay healthy, we'll be in the conversation at regionals. It's a very deep region with a lot of similar teams and it will come down to who's healthy and hitting their stride at regionals."

Alex Ethridge has led the Pioneers early this season. The senior finished third (16 minutes, 39.32 seconds) in the New Albany Classic on Aug. 24 and 14th (16:23.23) in the Hot Summer Bash on Sept. 5 at Hilliard Davidson.

The Davidson meet featured some of the state's top teams, and Orange was sixth (151) of 13 teams behind champion St. Xavier (46).

"We had good summer base training, so I think we'll develop well," Ethridge said. "We just need to take care of ourselves with recovery, eating well and getting enough sleep."

Ethridge, seniors Cole Benishek and Lincoln Weber and junior Bryan King all competed at state last season, and freshman Saketh Rudraraju also has run well, according to Walters.

Orange won the title at New Albany with 41 points, ahead of the host and runner-up Eagles (50) as nine teams scored. Rudraraju (sixth, 17:37.62) and King (seventh, 17:45.8) were just behind Ethridge, followed by sophomore Luke Woolard (ninth, 18:00.04) and junior Zamir Fuller (16th, 18:21.78).

King (21st, 16:43.75), Rudraraju (25th, 16:46.29), Benishek (36th, 17:01.02) and Fuller (61st, 17:30.65) rounded out the scoring at Davidson.

"We're really looking for a consistent No. 5 man to step up by the postseason," Walters said. "That person will come from the group of Lincoln Weber, senior Justin Nichols, junior Zamir Fuller and sophomore Luke Woolard, and a few others could jump into that mix as well.

"We've had a different fifth man the first few meets. Ideally we want a 1-5 pack time of 50 seconds or less, and we'll be tough to beat if that happens."

Patriots aim to stay among area's best

Liberty lost its lone individual Division I state qualifier, Jack Humenay, to graduation and four others who competed at last year's regional meet, but it isn't planning to take a step back.

The Patriots have a new coach in Patrick Brean, who guided Ashland to a 13th-place finish at last year's Division I state meet, and a strong senior trio in R.J. LaRosa, Tanner Sutton and Winston Fox.

On Sept. 5 at the Westerville North Invitational, Liberty was second (94) behind Olentangy (41) as LaRosa was fifth (17:18.4).

"It's definitely a big change from when I was at Ashland and had 26 (athletes)," Brean said. "It's a much bigger team, with us being closer to the 60-range, but I'm having fun with it. We have a young team. We're just going to use these early meets to really see where we are against the top teams."

At last year's regional, LaRosa was Liberty's No. 3 runner as he finished 63rd (17:14.1).

Others expected to contribute include senior Mitchell Boggs, junior Zach Warrick, sophomores Aiden Fuller, Andrew Lee, Mitchell Martz and Jacob Rygielski and freshman Noah Miller.

Warrick's brother, 2020 graduate Caleb Warrick, was one of the Patriots' top runners a year ago.

Humenay, who finished 23rd at state, also helped Liberty finish second in the OCC-Buckeye Division.

After the latest conference realignment, the Patriots have moved to the OCC-Central, where they join holdovers Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson and Upper Arlington along with Orange and Hilliard Bradley.

--Jarrod Ulrey

Four of top seven return for Braves

Although Division I state qualifier Mikey Worboy graduated, Olentangy returns four of its top seven runners from a year ago in senior Preston Smith and juniors Taye Gonzalez, Luke Galloway and David Moore.

Worboy was the third Braves competitor since 2014 to race at state, where he finished 151st. Gonzalez, Galloway and Smith were Olentangy's third, fourth and fifth runners when the team's season ended at district, and Moore was seventh.

"I'm optimistic that I have a lot of guys coming back. That's a good start," sixth-year coach Ken Whalen said. "I don't know that any of these guys will turn into a Mikey Worboy or an Anthony Sasso (a three-time state qualifier from 2014-16), but they're solid runners. Taye and Luke both were in the high 16s at the end of (last) year and Preston Smith was at 17:05, so if they continue to improve, we'll be a solid team.

"The goal of cross country is to build that depth to be even more competitive."

Olentangy also returned its eighth through 12th runners in seniors Johan Rosgaard and Kyle Selby, junior Nate Karr and sophomores Tommy Richards and Jackson Shultz.

The Braves opened Aug. 25 at Berlin, the first of three scheduled dual meets that were created largely because the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of several invitationals.

Olentangy added home duals Sept. 12 against Big Walnut and Saturday, Sept. 19, against Liberty.

Whalen also is encouraged that 23 of the 52 runners in his program are freshmen.

"I have a solid 12 guys who are bunched together as a group, train together a lot and are dedicated," Whalen said. "They got in a lot of miles this summer. There will be some jockeying around. If we get a state qualifier out of that group, that'd be great, but it's a good, solid 10 to 12 kids I can depend on."

--Dave Purpura

Bears expect success in third season

Berlin returns five of its top seven runners, which leaves third-year coach Anthony Beggrow optimistic about his team's chances for a successful season.

Seniors Jack Dunlop and Corey Rinehart lead the way for the Bears, and other returnees are juniors Wyatt Bednar and Calvin Davies and sophomore Cooper Citro.

Rinehart competed in the Division I regional meet last fall, but his race was cut short when he became ill on the course.

"We're moving in the right direction," Beggrow said. "These guys put in a lot of time during the pandemic. They work really well together and they do a great job of training and keeping each other motivated."

Three newcomers who are expected to contribute are senior Mason Zamilski and freshmen Matthew Cool and Braeden Danko.

"Mason came out for the first time and has been our seventh man," Beggrow said. "Matthew Cool and Braeden Danko have come along and helped to motivate the team. Those eight guys have been putting in the mileage and crushing each other."

The Bears were second (60) of six teams in their race at the Pickerington North Classic on Aug. 29 behind Pickerington Central (47).

Dunlop (eighth, 17:16.0) was the top finisher for Berlin, followed by Rinehart (ninth, 17:27.9), Davies (11th, 17:38.2), Citro (14th, 17:47.9), Bednar (18th, 18:07.0), Cool (25th, 18:36.7) and Zamilski (31st, 19:01.0).

"The kids expect to do well," Beggrow said. "They keep everyone motivated and on point. You give them a workout and they just go out and do it."

--Scott Hennen

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports

At a glance

OLENTANGY BERLIN

*Coach: Anthony Beggrow, third season

*Top athletes: Wyatt Bednar, Cooper Citro, Calvin Davies, Jack Dunlop and Corey Rinehart

*Key losses: Pietro Pozzi, Jacob Reitz and Grant Schrieber

*2019 OCC-Cardinal standings: Thomas Worthington (59), Dublin Jerome (72), Dublin Scioto (94), Worthington Kilbourne (97), Hilliard Bradley (108), Berlin (125), Hilliard Darby (135), Delaware (182)

*2019 postseason: Eighth at district

OLENTANGY LIBERTY

*Coaches: Patrick Brean, first season

*Top athletes: Winston Fox, Aiden Fuller, R.J. LaRosa, Mitchell Martz, Noah Miller, Tanner Sutton and Zach Warrick

*Key losses: Jack Humenay, Zach King, Caleb Ogle, Judd Ogle, Matthew Onate and Caleb Warrick

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Orange (32), Liberty (42), Olentangy (81), Westerville Central (116), Westerville South (131), Westerville North (152)

*2019 postseason: Third at district, eighth at regional

OLENTANGY

*Coach: Ken Whalen, sixth season

*Top athletes: Luke Galloway, Taye Gonzalez, David Moore and Preston Smith

*Key losses: Chandler Moyer, Patrick Schirtzinger and Mikey Worboy

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Orange (32), Liberty (42), Olentangy (81), Central (116), South (131), North (152)

*2019 postseason: Seventh at district

OLENTANGY ORANGE

*Coach: Adam Walters, eighth season

*Top athletes: Cole Benishek, Jake Ethridge, Bryan King, Saketh Rudraraju and Lincoln Weber

*Key losses: Alex Kenish, Cody Moore and Brant Yocum

*2019 OCC-Buckeye standings: Orange (32), Liberty (42), Olentangy (81), Central (116), South (131), North (152)

*2019 postseason: Second at district, third at regional, 18th at state