The Southern Hills Athletic Conference has proven to produce talented runners in recent years.
Several have advanced through the regional meets and into statewide contention, but before then, they’ll be competing for conference titles.
Jenny Seas has dominated cross country in the area, and after a season-ending injury kept her from the state meet last year, she’ll be coming off a state title this spring in the 3,200-meter run and aiming for the top crown this fall.
Here’s a look at each team from the coverage area:
If it weren’t for a late season injury, Jenny Seas may have been able to double-dip with state titles in both track and cross country. Seas is back and healthy now for the Lady Indians as they look to improve upon their third-place finish in the SHAC from last season.
Alex Gold is the new coach, replacing Ty Stephens.
“I am very excited to see how Jenny can build off of her successful (state championship) track season last year. I understand that she had injuries that held her back in cross country last year, and I can tell she is hungry to get another shot,” Gold said.
Seas’ sister Katy will also be joining the team as a freshman. He’s also been impressed by Ali Behr early on in practice and the leadership she’s been providing.
The roster is fairly thin, having just two high school boys on the roster and five girls. Gold is hopeful to get more runners in from the Lady Indians soccer team while the Indians will be focused on individual results.
“I have been impressed with how the group has responded to having a new coach and taking the first few practices seriously. I can tell that they want to be here and that they want to improve, but also were waiting for some direction that I hope to be able to provide,” Gold said.
“I am excited to see how they improve and perform later in the season after getting a couple months of training in – we will think of the first few meets as glorified workouts. I am looking forward to late October where I hope to have the kids running at their best for the postseason meets,” Gold added.
The Greyhounds are a little down with numbers this season but have four boys and three girls on the team. New coach Sierra Farley takes over for longtime coach Vic Bowman.
“I’m hopeful that when school starts we’ll be adding some athletes, then we can start setting goals as a team. However individually, we have a couple athletes on both the boys & girls teams who could potentially qualify for regionals. So this season we’ll be working with that goal in mind,” Farley said.
Darryan Rigsby and Declan Huron will lead the way for the Greyhounds.
“It’s awesome seeing how far they’ve come since they first joined cross country in middle school. Although we are kind of the underdogs this year, it’s possible they’ll step up & really surprise us this season,” Farley said.
Nate Rigsby and Douglas Harper round out the rest of the Greyhounds roster. For the Lady Hounds, they’ll have Torie Barlow, Alexus Barlow and Jenna McClanahan. They lost their top runner, Billie Jean Kinhalt to graduation as they finished sixth in the SHAC last season.
The Greyhounds also finished sixth. As for the start of the season, the Hounds are ready to get going.
“Our team is just anxious for the meets to start in general. As one of my runners was saying yesterday, ‘There’s such a positive energy at cross country meets.’ We’re ready to surround ourselves with athletes who understand our passion & work just as hard as we do. Of course, the end of the season (League & Districts) will be in the back of our minds as we work on improving ourselves with every meet,” Farley added.
The Dragons will look to replace some key pieces from the 2017 team, with the hopes of finishing among the top teams when the SHAC meet rolls around on Oct. 13 at Ripley.
“The SHAC is one of the most competitive D3 leagues around. Our league has sent teams and individuals to state for the last several years,” said West Union coach Sean Inman in an email to The Ledger Independent. “With that said, I expect our teams to be very good this year and both boys and girls have a chance to finish top three in the league.”
West Union is also looking forward to meets at Mason County, Piketon, Rio Grande, Ripley and at home for the West Union Invitational.
“These meets allow us to see a variety of competition and are all great courses. Two of the most important meets for us this season and the ones we are training for are the district meet held at Rio Grande and the regional meet held at Pickerington,” said Inman. “If we can avoid injuries and run to our potential both teams have a great chance to qualify for regionals.”
The boys’ team will try to replace Adam Fulton, Gabe Grooms and Garrett Vogler – three of their top runners for most of last year.
The Dragons will bring back Steven Runyan, who Inman says made a strong push toward the end of last season, along with Braxton Blanton, Jai-Michael Knox, Grant McCarty, Cameron Campbell, Zane Kingsolver and Ethan Prather.
The Lady Dragons didn’t have any seniors on the 2017 team that narrowly missed out on a chance to qualify for the regional meet. They’ll return sisters Anna and Addie Shupert, as well as Kendra Grooms, Katie Fulton, Katrina Boldman, Houston Adkins and Harley Silvia.
The Blue Jays finished fifth in the SHAC meet last year behind Fairfield, Eastern, West Union and Whiteoak with 149 points. Ripley did not have a runner finish in the top 15 at the meet.
Clinton Bratley was the top finisher for the Blue Jays at the OHSAA Southwest Division III meet at Voice of America Park in West Chester last fall. He finished 22nd as a sophomore at 18:52. Tristan Fisher finished 35th at 19:53 as a sophomore, Alex King, a rising senior this year, finished 60th at 22:00 and Thomas Whaley, a rising junior, finished 65th at 22:47. Jacob Castle, another rising junior, was right behind Whaley with a time of 22:49.
Ripley coach Jerry Kelly did not respond to an email requesting information on the team.
Attempts to reach out to Eastern were unsuccessful. The Lady Warriors are coming off a SHAC title while the Indians finished second in the conference.
The G-Men finished fourth in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference National Division last year with 87 points. They had three runners named second team SBAAC National Division All-Stars in Emerson Cahall, Tanner Ellis and Joshua Galley. None were seniors.
Ellis finished 11th at the OHSAA Southwest Division III meet at Voice of America Park with a time of 17:59. Cahall was 17th at 18:17 and Galley was 20th at 18:39.
Georgetown’s next two finishers at the district meet weren’t seniors either. Garrett Ernst finished 26th with a time of 19:15 and Anthony Carrington was 34th at 19:52. The team finished third.
The G-Men finished 13th at the regional meet at Troy. Galley was their top finisher, placing 64th.
The Lady G-Men finished third in the SBAAC National Division last fall. Katlin Colwell was named a first team All-Star as a sophomore and Olivia Waits was a second team All-Star as a freshman last year.
The Georgetown girls placed fourth at the Southwest Division III district meet, led by Colwell’s second place finish with a time of 20:54. Waits finished 17th at 22:21. None of the next three finishers for the Lady G-Men were seniors either. Grace Burrows finished 30th, Allyson McHenry was 32nd and Laura Wood was 55th.
The Lady G-Men went on to finish 12th at the regional meet. They were led by Colwell, who finished 66th.