Worthington Christian Roundup: 'Passion for running' drives Michael Schaefer as coach

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Sophomore Zoe Ward is the lone returnee for the Warriors girls cross country team, which has just three competitors.

During his three seasons competing in track and field and two running cross country before graduating from Worthington Christian in 2005, Michael Schaefer developed what he calls a "passion for running."

Schaefer is hoping to encourage that same interest as the coach for the boys and girls cross country teams.

After serving as an assistant, Schaefer has taken over after Mike Vallangeon led the program for two seasons.

"I helped (Vallangeon) out last year with the cross country team and I've helped out off and on in previous seasons as well when needed," Schaefer said. "I've been a regular assistant coach with the track team for several years. ... The Worthington Christian running program had a huge positive impact on my life.

"I got involved as a volunteer coach 13 years ago and discovered I was just as passionate about coaching. I love to see the student-athletes grow and succeed in running while applying valuable life lessons learned from the sport."

Worthington Christian next competes Saturday, Sept. 19, in the Central Ohio Invitational at Three Creeks Metro Park.

There are 10 competitors on the boys team after the Warriors finished fifth in the Division III, district 1 meet last year to miss advancing to regional by two spots.

The top returnees are senior Mackay Lykens and juniors Sam O'Roark, Jonathan Sanders and Sam Spires. At district, Spires was 25th (19 minutes, 13.7 seconds), Sanders placed 30th (19:31.8), Lykens was 34th (19:43.7) and O'Roark placed 53rd (21:35.4).

On Aug. 29 in the six-team Dan Reid Invitational at Whitehall, Worthington Christian was third (86) behind Lakewood (27) and Northridge (40) as Spires placed 13th (20:36.5).

Junior Synjin Sharp, who was 15th (21:25.6) at Whitehall, also is a returnee, and freshman Joe Spires is another of the team's top runners.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Will Muskopf, Leon Ren and Chad Smith and freshman Matt Koran.

The biggest losses were 2020 graduate Peter Tsibouris, who was 24th at the district meet, and senior Noah St. John, who was 22nd at district but is not back with the team.

"Their dedication in the offseason is showing and I think they'll have a rewarding season," Schaefer said. "We have a tight pack for our top five and they're all highly motivated to succeed despite the added challenges this year has presented, so my hopes are for them to make a strong showing at district and earn a (regional qualifying berth)."

Girls team has three competitors

None of the seven competitors who represented the girls cross country team as it finished 10th at last year's district meet are back.

Sophomore Zoe Ward is the only returnee, and she is joined by freshmen Alexa Graham and Annie Whitel.

The Warriors did not post a team score Aug. 29 at the Dan Reid Invitational, where Ward was eighth (23:59.4), Graham placed 10th (24:15.2) and White finished 17th (27:09.1).

"These girls are also highly motivated and I think we'll see a lot of high-placing finishes this season," Schaefer said.

"Zoe had a phenomenal freshman season last year, often competing with the seniors, and she's ready to be a young leader this season. Even though she's a sophomore, I think she's got it in her to compete with some of the top girls in the district."

Last season, 2020 graduate Joy Pitzer led the Warriors with a 29th-place finish at district.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

At a glance

CROSS COUNTRY

*Coach: Michael Schaefer, first season

*Top athletes: Boys -- Mackay Lykens, Samuel O'Roark, Jonathan Sanders, Synjin Sharp, Jon Spires and Sam Spires; Girls -- Alexa Graham, Zoe Ward and Annie White

*Key losses: Boys -- Turner Burns, Noah St. John and Peter Tsibouris; Girls -- Reagan Bowen, Mia Godorhazy, Morgan Lawrence, Maddie Pitzer, Joy Pitzer, Maddie Skidmore and Katherine Todd

*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 -- Fifth at district; Girls -- 10th at district