Westland Roundup: Boys runners aim to improve 'every day'

FRANK DIRENNA
fdirenna@thisweeknews.com
Seth Westmoreland and the Westland football team were 0-2 entering their game against Pickerington North on Sept. 11. The Cougars will travel to New Albany for an OCC-Ohio contest on Friday, Sept. 18.

Westland senior Drew Hutchinson hopes added depth will give the boys cross country team enough runners to post a score in the Division I district meet.

The Cougars had just four boys available for district a season ago, but five are needed to record a team score.

Westland has seven runners on the roster this season, providing Hutchinson with optimism for the postseason.

"We're just a group of friends more than we are a team," said Hutchinson, who is in his fourth season with the program. "We run together. We work out with each other. We just make sure we improve every day with one another."

Hutchinson has been the team's top runner so far this season, followed by senior George Reyes and junior Tyler Aiken. Both are returnees

Junior Austin Hunter and senior Brandon Hernandez, both first-year runners, also have competed for top-five spots.

Senior Harrison Jones and junior Henry Jones round out the team.

"We have had a good summer base, split between some experienced and new runners," said coach Josh Barkeloo, who is in his 14th season. "It has definitely been different having to follow all of the COVID guidelines, but our team has been healthy and I believe that the guidelines help with that."

Westland's early season included playing host to the Best of the South-West meet Sept. 5. The boys finished third (60) behind Grove City (22) and Central Crossing (48) as Reyes finished fifth of 38 runners (19 minutes, 22.25 seconds) and Hutchinson was ninth (19:51.05).

"I enjoy running on our home course," Hutchinson said. "My favorite course to run on is at Watkins Memorial. I enjoy the way it's set up."

After finishing fifth (155) in the OCC-Central Division meet last season behind champion Hilliard Davidson (26), the Cougars are now in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, New Albany, Pickerington North and Westerville Central.

The girls team has just two runners, including junior Taylor Gullion, who is in her second season.

She was seventh (25:16.33) of 22 runners in the Best of the South-West meet.

"It's kind of a setback, but I can't be mad," Gullion said of the lack of depth. "I'm just glad I have someone else to run with."

Junior Allison Chapin, who is a first-year runner, was 12th (28:49.52).

"Usually, my goals for the season will focus on personal bests and how we will perform at the league or district meet, but this year my goal is to make sure these great kids get the season that they signed up for," Barkeloo said. "I'm going to do everything within my power to make sure that happens."

Football team tackling challenges

Football coach Rick Rios knew his team would face challenges in the OCC-Ohio, as it did in past seasons in the OCC-Central.

This year, the Cougars also had only one non-league game because of the shortened, six-game regular season.

Westland, which was 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington North on Sept. 11, visits New Albany on Friday, Sept 18.

The Cougars opened league play with a 49-7 loss to visiting Gahanna on Sept. 4.

"We knew losing our non-conference games was going to hurt us, especially being able to build some confidence and being able to compete at a higher level early on with our young kids," Rios said. "We know the challenges ahead. The OCC is not going to get any easier for us."

Westland was outgained 355-173 against Gahanna. Jovaan Cooper connected with Jack Little on a 79-yard touchdown pass.

"It's been a rough two games where we have even been close to having the same lineup two weeks in a row," Rios said before the Cougars played North. "We're just trying to find some consistency. The biggest thing right now is we have to stop beating ourselves. We really imploded in all three aspects of the game."

New Albany was 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league before playing Gahanna on Sept. 11.

Jayden Fudge rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and Owen Wilcox had seven receptions for 128 yards to lead the Eagles to a 23-7 win over visiting Grove City on Sept. 4.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

At a glance

FOOTBALL -- WEEK 4

WESTLAND at NEW ALBANY

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18

*Last meeting: First meeting

*Westland (0-2 overall, 0-1 in OCC-Ohio) to date: Lost to Groveport 38-0; lost to Gahanna 49-7; played Pickerington North on Sept. 11

*New Albany (2-0 overall, 1-0 in OCC-Ohio) to date: Defeated Lancaster 20-13; def. Grove City 23-7; played Gahanna on Sept. 11

*Top Cougars: Colton Bogle (OL), Jovaan Cooper (QB), Zane Gibbs-Aguon (WR), Payton Hayes (OL/DL), Hayden Hughes (OL/DL), Jakob Hurley (LB), Jack Little (WR), Jenell Matia (WR), Tim Smith (RB/DB) and Seth Westmoreland (DB)

*Top Eagles: Jayden Fudge (RB), Ian Hoff (LB/K), Collin Johnson (OL/LS), Brock Kidwell (RB/QB/DB), Mechi McCaulley (RB), Brock Tibbitts (QB/P), Tyler Van Meter (RB/LB), Jaron Webster (OL) and Owen Wilcox (WR/DB)

CROSS COUNTRY

*Coach: Josh Barkeloo, 14th season

*Top athletes: Boys -- Drew Hutchinson and George Reyes; Girls -- Allison Chapin and Taylor Gullion

*Key loss: Boys -- Francisco Vinalay; Girls -- None

*2019 OCC-Central standings: Boys -- Hilliard Davidson (26), Upper Arlington (61), Dublin Coffman (64), Marys-ville (90), Westland (155); Girls -- Davidson (15), Coffman (65), Marysville (68), UA (95)

*2019 postseason: Boys -- Did not score at district; Girls -- Did not score at district