Whitehall Roundup: Top runners return for boys squad
Having lost just one runner to graduation and with only one senior in his projected starting lineup, Whitehall-Yearling boys cross country coach Robert Taylor has high hopes for this season and beyond.
"I have a real nice group of junior boys who have some experience and potential," said Taylor, who is in his 10th season. "Because of what's been going on (with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic), everybody hasn't been around. ... We're getting the kids used to a normal routine."
Whitehall returns its top runners from last season, led by junior Daba Hordofe, who placed 60th (17 minutes, 48.4 seconds) in the Division I, district 1 meet.
Also back are senior Yared Yesuf and juniors Jordan Burchnell, Eyobong Ita and Sam McQuate.
Junior Shea Jordan is in his first season. He also competes on the wrestling team.
"He looks like he's going to be a good, strong runner for us," Taylor said. "He'll be (in the) top seven for sure."
Also looking to contribute is senior Jaylin Moody, who has been with the program for four years.
The Rams opened Aug. 29 by finishing fifth (128) of five teams in the 35th annual Dan Reid Invitational at Whitehall Community Park as Lakewood (27) won.
Hordofe finished seventh (18:53.2) of 58 runners to lead the Rams.
Carter Paddock was the only runner lost to graduation.
Because of the pandemic, the Rams have an abbreviated schedule this season.
Highlights include the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic on Oct. 3 at London Country Club, the Harrier Showdown on Oct. 10 at Johnstown and the MSL-Ohio Division meet Oct. 17 at Buckeye Valley.
Last season, the Rams finished fifth (118) in the league meet behind champion Bexley (39).
"I just hope we get meets," Taylor said. "We usually run in three meets that are run by (Columbus) city schools and they're all canceled. We're doing what we can. We're scrambling to fill in our schedules."
Girls coach Natasha Gallagher entered the season hoping to add more runners to a roster that was depleted by graduation.
Gallagher expects sophomores Ashley Castillo, Amanda Gomez and Amarra Haines and freshman Haleigh Jordan to gain valuable experience.
"Our goal this year is to build a foundation and a solid team for the years to come, as we have a pretty young team," Gallagher said. "We lost (five) seniors last year, so this is a rebuilding year."
The girls did not have enough runners for a team score in the Dan Reid Invitational. Castillo was 24th (33:51.8) of 28 runners to lead Whitehall.
At a glance
*Coaches: Boys -- Robert Taylor, 10th season; Girls -- Natasha Gallagher, third season
*Top athletes: Boys -- Daba Hordofe and Yared Yesuf; Girls -- Ashley Castillo, Amanda Gomez, Amarra Haines and Haleigh Jordan
*Key losses: Boys -- Carter Paddock; Girls -- Tatiana Figueroa, Amy Hernandez, Cali Justice, Rebekah Revadelo and Izzy Simmons
*2019 MSL-Ohio standings: Boys -- Bexley (39), Buckeye Valley (63), Columbus Academy (66), Grandview (105), Whitehall (118), Worthington Christian (143), Wellington (214); Girls -- Bexley (31), Buckeye Valley (44), Grandview (92), Academy (109), Columbus School for Girls (126), Worthington Christian (133)
*2019 postseason: Boys -- 14th at district; Girls -- Did not score at district