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Area CC runners ready to go for 2020 season

T-L File Photo BELLAIRE SENIOR Jacob Defibaugh is coming off a strong 2019 season in which he earned All-Ohio in Division III. Defibaugh is primed for another big season for the Big Reds.

It took much longer than what most area cross country runners and coaches would have liked.

But, the fact that prep cross country will go on — looking a little bit different than what most are accustomed to — is exciting nonetheless.

The sport — after several adjustments and debate about the starting and finish lines — was given clearance to move forward in Ohio by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this month.

The first meets were actually held earlier this week and the first invitationals are happening this weekend.

Races in Ohio are limited to 150 max competitors, which has caused OVAC Track and CC Commissioner Dugan Hill to think about possible adjustments to the Cal Pokas OVAC CC Championship, which is slated for Oct. 10 at Cambridge High School. Those adjustments are still being discussed.

Prior to the OVAC, the Buckeye 8 will crown its champion on Sept. 9 at Union Local. The Ohio Valley Cross Country League championship is ticketed for Oct. 17 at Buckeye Local.

That meet paves the way for the postseason, which will begin with the district meet at Cambridge High School on Oct. 24. The OHSAA State Championship has a new home for this season. It’s moving back to Franklin County and will be held at Fortress Obetz on Columbus’ southside.

Here’s a capsule look at the schools which returned information:

BARNESVILLE — The Shamrocks have one of the area’s most storied cross country traditions. Head coach Mark Brown has been a part of most of that as he now enters his 37th season at the helm of the boys and girls teams.

And there is no shortage of names on the Rocks rosters either.

“We have 44 kids out and will field a full team at all four levels, so I am really proud of our numbers and how hard they’ve worked this summer,” Brown said.

The Shamrocks boys, who lost nary a runner to graduation, boast no seniors once again. The top returning runner for Barnesville is junior Tyler Jenkins, who was all-OVAC and All-District last season.

Sophomore Logan Dodd is expected to be the second runner, while junior Jonothan Carpenter is the third. The fourth and fifth spots could be a weekly battle. Expected to vye for those spots are sophomore Vincent Phillips, junior Jett Stephen, junior Jacob Webb, junior Mason Carpenter and sophomore Cooper Bell.

The balance of the roster includes sophomores Landry Burke and Cole Rockwell as well as freshman Brady Drake.

The girls squad, meanwhile, has 16 runners, competing for the top seven spots.

Sophomore Aubry Johnson is coming off an All-OVAC and All-District season and will be the Shamrocks leader. She’ll be pushed by freshman Marah Bethel, who had a solid junior high season in 2019. Junior Emma Helmick is bouncing back from an injury she sustained in the second half of last season.

Brown has also been impressed with freshman Kylee Moore.

Beyond that, the order could fluctuate each week. He’s expecting junior Jordyn Strous, freshman Layna Kuhn, sophomore Kaylee Graham, freshman Ayla Yater, senior Kaitlyn Roe and senior Morgan Winters to be in the mix.

The balance of the roster includes: junior Janetta Campbell, freshmen Cali Lee, Kailey Nugent, Adrianna Schybal, Eden Steele and Madison Winters.

Brown is being assisted by Melissa Dodd.

BELLAIRE — Chris Arno has been coaching cross country for now a quarter of a century. He’s experienced great success, too.

With an All-Ohio in Jacob Defibaugh leading the way, the Big Reds boys appear primed to put forth another impressive season.

“We are looking forward to getting out and racing,” Arno said. “Although we didn’t lose anyone to graduation, the make up of this team is different for various reasons. We are going to need these guys to get out of their comfort zone this year and challenge themselves and each other.”

Defibaugh is the unquestioned leader after a 2019 campaign in which he finished 29th in the Division III state meet.

“We need Jacob to continue with his progression individually and motivate our team,” Arno said. “He’s very determined and we want him to get back to the state meet since he got a taste of it.”

Defibaugh will be joined at the starting line by fellow seniors Brenen Craig, Ryan Hicks and Aric Coffman as well as sophomores Stefan Palenicek, Devin Schramm and Chase Corbett.

On the girls’ side of the equation, Arno is facing a re-building project as four runners — Katrina Davis, Tayah Frazier, Abbie Gianangeli and Ashley Speece all graduated.

“Those four seniors were part of two OVAC titles and a regional berth in their careers,” Arno said. “We are now in the process of rebuilding our program. Cross country is a strenuous sport that takes athletes who are self-motivated and determined.”

Bellaire won’t field a full girls team with just three runners on the roster. They are sophomore Bethany McElfresh, who qualified to the regional last season. Senior Kaleigh Leigh is seeking her fourth letter and freshman Constance Stewart is out for the team.

Arno’s assistants are Trenton Gibson, Tyler Stewart, Jon Purtiman and Ann Arno.

BRIDGEPORT — Robert Newhart has taken over the reins of the Bulldogs program and inherits a squad of three males, but nary a female participant.

The Bulldogs include senior Timmy Stanton, junior John Tully and freshman Damon Burgess.

“I have a hard-working group of guys,” Newhart said. “I’m seeing improvement every week. Our guys’ main focus is to keep running PRs and improve each week.”

Newart is being assisted by Maclaine Murad.

BUCKEYE LOCAL — Hard work has been the objective for the Panthers harriers this summer as they prepared for their 2020 season under head coaches Diane and Wayne McCracken.

The boys team is looking to replace Brody Cermak, Jacob Pielech and Conrad Schuetz. The 2020 squad is comprised of senior Nathan Jarrell, sophomores Cai McKeever, Dayne Carter and Brodee Andes. New to the team is freshman, Chase McFadden.

The lone female graduation loss was Sarah Lambright. Looking to fill her shoes are High school girl grad was Sarah Lambright. Returning on the HS girls team will be senior Sierra Sterling, junior Hester Lambright, sophomores Corissa Griffith and Haley Langsdorf along with freshman Kaitlyn Jarrell.

“We are looking forward to working with a hard-working group of runners,” Diane McCracken said.

BUCKEYE TRAIL — Nathan Fisher begins his second season with Warriors with a roster that is expected to make another push toward the regional.

The Warriors girls feature an All-Ohioan in junior Kathryn Williams. She was the OVAC 3A champion last year and finished fifth at the regional after winning the district. She’ll be the unquestioned leader.

“Kathryn has her eyes set on a jump in the individual (results) at the state meet,” Fisher said. “If things break right, she could have some familiar faces with her at Fortress Obetz.”

Others expected to be in the varsity mix for the Warriors are senior Julianna Kinas, sophomores Morgan Atkinson, Kenzie Atkinson and Sam Jackson. Two freshmen expected to contribute are Riley Ward and Kyley Barnhart.

The balance of the freshmen class includes: Myah Frederick, Madi Snyder, Jocelynn Bryan and Haylee Burris.

Graduation took Journey Jeffrey, Chaylann Bamfield and Abbi Gray.

On the boys’ side, the Warriors will have six runners competing.

They include seniors Matthew Garcia and Tegan Williams. Juniors Bryce Eagon, Gavin Bates and Shaun Jackson. Freshman Brandon Ruggles is the lone newcomer.

“While the boys team has sole “older” runners on the roster, in terms of their running experience we’re all still learning and growing,” Fisher said. “There are no middle school meets under the belts of any of these runners, so we’re trying on the fly, you could say. Each returning runner set a personal best last season, so I don’t question that they’re taking all of the right steps.”

Trail’s lone graduation loss on the boys side was Ross Robinson.

Fisher’s assistant coach is Tre Stratton.

HARRISON CENTRAL — The Huskies will return one of the few area runners who has state meet experience. Actually, they return two former state qualifiers and both are on the girls’ roster.

Senior Jasmine Arnold and junior Destiny Arnold return for yet another season, trying to build on prior accomplishments. Both Arnolds competed in the 2018 state meet and both advanced to the regional last season.

They’ll be complemented by Grace Dulkowski, Maddy Edwards and Gretchen Dulkowski. Others working to get into the varsity mix are Sierra Stull, Danielle Drapp, McKenzie Howell, Katie Byers and Rachel White.

On the boys’ side, head coach Doug Drapp, who is in his sixth season, will need to replace regional qualifier Eric Leech. Also graduating were Andy Drapp and Adam Ripley.

Regional qualifier Logan Laney leads the list of returnees for the Huskies. He’ll be joined at the line by Charles Garbrandt, Luke Forrester, Avery Wallace, Aiden Hays, Brent Malcomb, Thomas Sasaek and Colton Howell.

Vying for a spot with the varsity are Bryce Wallace, Gavin Ray and Sean Drapp.

Drapp is being assisted by Christine Fireman.

LINSLY — The Cadets program has been on the upswing of late. However, the girls program has experienced a coaching change with Jeff Hasis taking over. Nate Cumberworth returns to guide the boys squad.

The Cadets girls team should be formidable with the return of senior Molly Heron, junior Haley Heitz and junior Ally Hicks. The balance of the top six includes: freshmen Katie Kastelic and Caitlyn Bedway along with senior Henrietta Lofgren.

“Molly, Haley and Ally have been great leaders for the girls so far,” Hasis said. “Everyone is just happy to be around one another right now and working hard. These kids have earned it so far, so hopefully, everyone will follow the guidelines and stay healthy.”

The Cadets boys roster is led by seniors Shane McCready and Justin Jokovich. A solid junior trio of Xander Plute, Jeb Bertram and Reily Cramps are ticketed for the top five. Sophomore Noah Jenewein has also looked strong in the preseason. Sophomore Jack Scouvart is in a battle with junior Shane Heron, freshman Andrew Heath and senior Everett Poole for the final two varsity spots.

“We are yet again a pretty young team, but we have a great group of guys,” Cumberworth said. “They’ve worked their tails off. With not having a spring sports season, these kids didn’t get to do much, so staying healthy is important. Making it through the season and having fun is what this season is all about.”

MARTINS FERRY — The Purple Riders have it going in cross country. However, as Chrissy Lewis begins her 17th season at the helm, she knows there’s always room for improvement.

“We are hoping for a year similar to last year, but, of course, always better,” Lewis said. “Our boys look ready to fight and have a lot of pressure on them. If we stay healthy and keep working hard, we will see much success.”

The Purple Rider boys won the Buckeye 8 and OVAC meets last season and qualified for the regional.

They lost just Mike Buksa and Kyle Fogle to graduation.

The Ferry top four of boys will include senior Wyatt Wodarcyk, Eli Smith, juniors Trent Lewis and Francis Toohey. Another junior Mitch Tickerhoof is pushing them as well.

Expected to round out the top seven are C.J. Anderson and Alex Cunningham.

The balance of the Ferry boys roster includes: juniors Jackson Romshak, Waylan Mylnek, Kyler Oliver and Chad Love. Freshmen vying for action are Demitras Briggs, Zach Greathouse, Kenny Irvin, Colin Cunningham and Walker Romshak.

On the girls’ side, the Riders are also looking for more success after claiming the OVAC and Buckeye 8 titles.

Leading the Purple attack will be sophomore Josie Hancock and junior Hannah Hupp. Sophomore Jaqulynn Gill, senior Kayla Theaker and freshman Lanee Matz are expected to round out the top five.

Others on the squad are Gia Starkey, Gwyn Cable and Marli Krol.

“The girls have some good talent, but several are new to the sport,” Lewis said. “If they learn to enjoy pain, we will have a great year. They need to see commitment and encouragement from their leaders. I am so excited to get this season going.”

Lewis is once again being assisted by Ed Liberatore.

RIVER — Amy Shreve begins her sixth season at the Pilots helm with a solid girls squad, but nary a boy on the team.

The Pilots were hit hard by graduation, including two-time state qualifier Livi Beard. Other graduation losses include: Cooper Brown, Justin Fisher, Jenna Tucker, Julianna Taylor and Alli Long.

The Pilots 2020 roster includes seniors Sofie Myers, Adrianna Karpacs Brown, juniors Camryn Caldwell and Kylie Piatt, sophomore Bella Thomas and talented freshman Mara Beard, who competed at the junior high state meet.

“I am looking forward to seeing what these girls can do as a team,” Shreve said. “They push each other during practice and they’re a very competitive team, which is exciting to watch.”

ST. JOHN CENTRAL ACADEMY — The Irish begin their second season as members of both the OHSAA and OVAC with a solid growth in participation numbers. They have three runners, which is an increase of two for the season.

Junior Eric Schnegg is the lone returnee. The other boy in the program is freshman Dalton Henderson.

The lone female is freshman Abby Young.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Numbers and expectations are up for the Red Devils, who begin their 22nd season with Tony Ciroli serving as head coach.

The boys are coming off a season in which they finished third in the Buckeye 8, won the Cambridge Invitational, placed fifth at the OVAC and at the OVCCL.

Gone from that team, however, are Matt Marling, Andrew Nguyen and Xavier Williams.

The Red Devils will be led by seniors Evan Yost, Zack Riffle, Hunter Tomich. The juniors are Brendan Miller, T.J. Sacco, Matt Ponzani, Gannon Kazmirski and Nathaniel Ellison.

The lone sophomore is Zach McKeever and the two newcomers Nate Yost and Sawyer Bonnette, both of whom are freshmen.

The girls are coming off a 2019 season in which they finished second in the OVAC 4A race and third in the Buckeye 8. They also qualified to the regional.

Fueling the St. C. attack are seniors Maggie Marody, Jeanne Nguyen, Ellie Thomas, Kira Wakulchik and Victoria Trouten. The juniors are Paige Koshenko, Allyson Evonek, Kylie McKeegan and Brenna Planey. Sophomores looking to contribute are Mattie Arbenz and Colleen Beard, while Rami Padilla is the lone freshman.

“As a team, we started working as soon as we were able,” Ciroli said. “We were shut down for two weeks, but we regrouped and started again when it was possible. We have been doing what we need to do to stay healthy and safe in our training. Now, all we want is to have our season uninterrupted.”

Ciroli is being assisted by Darin Wilson.

UNION LOCAL — Anna Moore has taken over the reins of the Jets program and has a squad with solid numbers and talent.

The Jets boys will be led by returning regional qualifier Shawn Coe.

He’s joined by seniors Chad Barbe, Beaux Clark, Parker Skedel, Skylar Thompson and Tommy Walsh.

The junior boys are Derrick Garrison, Jonathan Kemp, Aiden Milliken and Shane Tidrick.

Sophomores are Austin Stoner and Dylan Moore, while the lone freshman is Kris Miller.

On the girls’ side, the lone senior is Madi Sells. Juniors on the roster are Kalleigh Stoner, April Funkhauser. The sophomores are Scarlett Clark and Alexia Miller. Three freshmen looking to make an impact are Breanna Barbe, Emma Coates and Riley Jo Wilson.

“We are very grateful that we’re getting to have a season,” Moore said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what the teams can do. This is a great group of kids with a lot of potential.”

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