Fall sports: Girls cross country preview
The Jonathan Alder girls cross country will be young, but talented.
“I think, as a team, this season they will be even stronger than last year, Jonathan Alder girls cross country coach Chad Palenshus. “We have some incoming freshmen who are going to be in our top five right from day one.
“I really look for this to be the first year we advance a girls team in the postseason.”
For the girls, Sami Koester is back (a 2010 regional qualifier).
“I am really looking forward to her having a breakout season,” her coach said. “She’s put in a lot of hard work and a lot of off season mileage and is really motivated. Not to take anything away from our returning letterwinners, but I really believe our number two runner will be one of the freshmen.”
Quite frankly, the expectations are high for the London girls cross country team. The Red Raiders return a host of talent, including Division II champion Sarra Taylor.
“To win a third straight (South Central Ohio League) championship and a return trip to the regional meet is what’s in our crosshairs,” Red Raiders girls coach Andy Crawford said. “We’d also like to get Jessica (Stewart) to the state meet, as well as giving Sarra the best opportunity we can to defend her individual state title.
“I know our girls were a little disappointed at how our season ended as a team last season.
After qualifying for the regional meet the year before, we missed out in 2011. The return trip is definitely a priority, as our top five return and we add Alexis Alderman, a solid senior, to the stable, which takes care of what I believe was our biggest weakness.
“Our problem last season was that we never had a race where all five of our top girls ran well at the same time,” Crawford added. “Now, with a sixth girl capable of consistently running with the others, we have a built-in margin for error. If we can stay healthy, we fully expect to be in the running for a third straight SCOL title and a trip back to regionals. And as for a berth in the state meet? I think the best way to put it is that we have a puncher’s chance.”
Crawford said the Red Raiders’ balance should bod well for them.
“Obviously, talk of our returning girls begins with Sarra Taylor, the defending state champion in Division II,” he said.
“But Jessica Stewart is just as much of a key as Sarra is. Lots of top-tier teams — the teams we’re trying to catch — have one frontrunner, but not many of them have the one-two punch that our pair of juniors can create, provided that they’re both on their game. Senior Marisa Davis has turned into quite a leader, and juniors Kali Boyd and Kaylee Jacobs are finally healthy and have already made visible improvements from last season.”
All of it amounts to London being the favorite to win the SCOL again.
“I want the girls to embrace (the favorite’s) role,” Crawford said. “Don’t shy away from it. They’re earned it. However, we must also realize that it guarantees us nothing but a target on our backs. I feel fortunate that we run in such a tough district that we have teams like Granville, Bexley and River Valley that keep us humble.
“Week in and week out, we know what it’s like to be the ones doing the chasing. As far as our SCOL opponents go, Clinton-Massie has tremendous depth and Hillsboro has a couple of top-notch individuals, so they are definitely capable of holding our attention.
“There’s an old saying in cross country that nothing truly matters until the league meet, and as far as the competitive phase of things go, that’s true,” the coach added. “But I think the athletes are excited about being one of the teams invited to the first-ever OHSAA Pre-Season Invitational on Aug. 18, to be run at the site of the state meet out at National Trail Raceway. We also return to the Tiffin Carnival, one of the largest races in the Midwest. And, of course, representing our school and one of our own at the Erin L. Nance Fall Distance Classic is always the emotional highlight of the season.”