Pickerington North Roundup: Ashley Khatib, Emma Rittman setting pace for girls cross country team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Emma Rittman, right, and Ashley Khatib had been the North girls cross country team's top two runners in all but one race during the past two seasons before the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17. Rittman, a junior, and Khatib, a sophomore, have been a dependable 1-2 tandem since middle school.

That sophomore Ashley Khatib and junior Emma Rittman were the Pickerington North girls cross country team’s top two finishers in the Les Eisenhart Invitational on Oct. 10 at Thomas Worthington wasn’t a surprise, given that they have been a dependable 1-2 tandem going back to their junior high days.

Khatib finished ahead of her good friend for the fifth time in their high school career, by 13.76 seconds, but neither she nor Rittman cares about the order — only that they continue to lead the Panthers as they prepare for the postseason beginning with the Division I, district 2 meet Saturday, Oct. 24, at Hilliard Darby.

“We’ve grown together and learned how to use each other’s strengths,” Khatib said. “I’ve become more mentally tough. Last year if I had a bad race, I’d get into my head about it and get super stressed out. This year, I’ve learned that even if I do have a bad day, I’ll give everything I’ve got. I’ve become much more mentally tough as a result.”

Bad days have been rare for Khatib and Rittman, who were teammates three years ago at Lakeview Junior High when Rittman was in eighth grade and Khatib was in seventh.

Before North participated in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17 at Pickerington Central, Rittman had been the Panthers’ top runner in 20 of 25 races dating to her freshman season, when she led the team in each of its nine invitationals. Khatib was first once and second seven times last year as a freshman, and they split the top spot in their first six races this year before Khatib took a 4-3 lead by edging Rittman at Thomas with a personal-best time of 19:54.54.

“I’m not surprised,” said Rittman, a two-time regional qualifier. “I knew what Ashley was capable of from junior high and I love running with her.”

North coach Jim Langenderfer said he is seeing exactly what he expected from Khatib and Rittman.

“If you’re going to be a solid team, you have to have some real talent up toward the front. To have a top two that work so well together, it’s huge for us,” Langenderfer said. “They’re both team-oriented, so there’s that natural chemistry. We knew both of them would be good, but the question was how they would fit together. … Emma is a natural leader and she inspires people. Ashley watches everything and she interjects when she can. She has superb confidence in her abilities.”

Rittman’s personal-best time before last weekend was 19:47.8, set on her home course at regional last year, when she finished 29th. She was 23rd in that race as a freshman, three spots shy of a state berth.

“You never know exactly what to expect in a race so you have to just go out and do it, but after seeing my performances I was more confident,” Rittman said. “I wasn’t shy or intimidated by other runners (as a freshman) because I realized I was doing pretty well for a young age.”

At district, the top six teams and top 24 runners advance to regional Oct. 31 at North.

“Being up there in the front is something you have to learn to do and learn to handle,” Langenderfer said. “You have to decide when to play your cards. You have to know your ability and your strengths and judge them as a race goes on.”

Tennis players

fall short at district

Tasha Miller and Corinna Moesle's strong late-season run for the girls tennis team came to an end Oct. 15, when they lost to Upper Arlington's Noah Mizer and Ava Richard 6-1, 6-0 in a state-qualifying match in the Division I district tournament at Reynoldsburg.

Miller and Moesle advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Hilliard Bradley's Reyann Askar and Madison Kennedy in the first round.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

Miller and Moesle were coming off a sectional championship Oct. 10 at Reynoldsburg.

Also competing but failing to advance at sectional were singles players Gabrielle Dobberstein, Jeslyn Eskander and Kanisha Thambyrajah, all of whom went 0-1, and the doubles team of Sarah McCully and Caroline Rowell, who went 1-1.

North senior Cassie Tasney shot an 83 to tie for 21st in the Division I district tournament Oct. 13 at New Albany Links.

Golf seasons 

end at district

Junior Carson Bellish of the boys golf team finished five shots short of his second consecutive Division I state tournament appearance, shooting a 77 at district Oct. 13 at Apple Valley as the Panthers’ season came to an end.

Bellish shot a 77, leading the Panthers to a team score of 324 and a tie for 10th with Central and New Albany behind champion Olentangy Orange (298) and runner-up Dublin Jerome (302), both of which advanced to state.

Also competing were juniors Kirby Shaffery (80) and Ryan Schneider (82) and sophomore Tyler Brockwell (85).

The individual state qualifiers were Josh Qian of Westerville Central (70) and Leo Walling of St. Charles (72).

“(Bellish) struggled a little bit and has been the last couple weeks, but his struggles are in the mid-70s,” coach Steve Schill said. “My top nine are all juniors and sophomores. I’m very happy for the opportunity to come here for these guys to experience it and hopefully this is a life lesson and it will help them and us going forward for next year. This is what to expect when we get there.”

In the girls district tournament the same day at New Albany Links, senior Cassie Tasney shot an 83 to tie four other golfers for 21st out of 54 individuals.

North will lose Ella Bertke and Tasney to graduation but should return three of its top five in junior Kendall Burton, sophomore Reagan Norton and freshman Cayla Tasney.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave

BOYS GOLF

OCC-Ohio standings: Westerville Central (17-3), Grove City (15-5), New Albany (11-9), Pickerington North (9-11), Gahanna (8-12), Westland (0-20)

Seniors lost: None

Key returnees: Carson Bellish, Tyler Brockwell, Ryan Schneider, Ethan Schwartz and Kirby Shaffery

Postseason: Second (297) at sectional behind Olentangy Liberty (297); tied for 10th (324) at district behind champion Olentangy Orange (298)

GIRLS GOLF

OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (20-0), Gahanna (13-7), North (12-7-1), Pickerington Central (9-11), Big Walnut (5-15), Lancaster (0-19-1)

Seniors lost: Ella Bertke and Cassie Tasney

Key returnees: Kendall Burton, Reagan Norton and Cayla Tasney

Postseason: Fourth (368) at sectional behind champion Dublin Coffman (331)