It’s been nine years since Sycamore won a Greater Miami Conference cross country championship. Much of it has to do with the competitiveness of the league, as the Aviators finished behind Mason and Lakota East last season and behind Mason the year before.
“Same thing I’ll say every year,” Sycamore coach John Benham said about chasing an elusive GMC title. “It’s obviously difficult with Mason, but I think we can get in there and battle with some of those teams. Our hope is always to have a competitive team in the GMC.”
The Aves always have competitive runners and return first-team performers Kevin Lawson and Kyria Graves from last year’s squad as well as second team performer Martin Gonzalez.
In the Sycamore Sunset Invitational Aug. 24, junior Lawson took second out of 397 runners and senior Mitch Singstock was not far back in third place. Sophomore Matt Isakson was a pleasant surprise in 10th. Behind them, juniors Andrew Schrantz and Miles Menyhert and senior Gonzalez were in the top 25.
Hayden Kirkham, Kevin Fitzgerald and Noah Darwiche are also on the squad. Kirkham is one of three seniors running for the first time.
“We have a good strong core of upperclassmen and a lot of surprising underclassmen that are slowly pushing some people out of their positions in the top seven,” Benham said. “I think that’s a good problem to have.”
In his fourth year at Sycamore, Benham has seen his overall numbers increase from the low 40s to 68 total.
“That has been one positive; increasing the numbers that are competing,” he said.
As he does most meet, Benham sports a dress shirt and bow tie. Each meet has meaning to the team and each season he’s raised awareness to a different illness to keep his runners community-minded.
“Every year we dedicate it to a specific cause,” Benham said. “This year it’s brain cancer. We have a teacher here whose daughter is going through some tough times, so we’re showing our support. It goes with our family motto of understanding some may be going through difficult times and we can support them.”
As a result, the Sycamore squad has made and sold “Gray Matters” t-shirts and bracelets this fall.
Sycamore next runs at the Mason Invitational Sept. 12, followed by the Trinity/Eaton Invitational Sept. 19.
There’s a lot of optimism around Drake Road and among running circles over the Indian Hill High School boys cross country program. The Braves last won a league title 19 years ago, but could be in contention this season as coach Susan Savage lost just one starter from her top seven.
Junior Ben Warstler returns after making Cincinnati Hills League first team as a sophomore and junior Patrick Giroux recently ran Indian Hill’s best time of of 17:23.60 at the Moeller Primetime Invitational Aug. 28. Warstler ran 17:28.80 and the Braves were eighth out of 26 teams and second among Division II schools.
Also among Savage’s scorers are senior Trent Geyer, junior Devin Heffernan, sophomores Joe Murdock and Johnny Giroux and freshman Nolan Heffernan. The Braves finished behind Wyoming and Taylor in the CHL last season, but went on to win a district championship.
“The boys are experienced, but young and eager to improve,” Savage said. “There’s lots of potential with both (boys and girls) teams. It will be a lot of fun watching the athletes become the runners they have the talent to become.”
In addition to the internal competition every team has, the Braves feature some “sibling rivalry” with brothers Patrick and Johnny Giroux and Devin and Nolan Heffernan.
Indian Hill has already participated in the OHSAA Early Season Invitational at National Trail Raceway, the Moeller Primetime Invitational and the Harrison Quad Meet. They’re next on the course at the Mason Invitational Sept. 12. The CHL Championship is next month, Oct. 17 at Landmark Christian.
Moeller is minus a pair of all-league performers and returns just two starters from a team that was fourth in the Greater Catholic League-South last season. The Crusaders recently took 11th out of 26 teams entered in their popular Moeller Primetime Invitational at the Golf Center at Kings Island.
Coach Dave Prenger’s returning starters are seniors Jacob Weisgerber and Doug Girard. Others to watch are juniors Steven Johnston, Kevin and Andrew Luers and sophomore Ben Bowers.
Weisgerber was Moeller’s top finisher under the lights Aug. 28 finishing 42nd out of 253 runners at 17:20.3. Johnston was 54th at 17:33.3.
“We lost a lot of great seniors from 2014, so we’re a fairly young team with not much varsity experience,” Prenger said. “I do believe we’ll see a nice improvement into the season as they get a couple races under their belt.”
The Crusaders also feature Moeller’s first two-sport cross country and football athlete in sophomore Nick Lima. Lima is a varsity runner and plays on the JV football squad as a defensive back.
The men of Moeller next race at Corwin-Nixon Park Sept. 12 at the Mason Invitational.
With the exception of Michael O’Brien, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy could return everybody who participated in the district race last season, including its top runner in senior J.P. Pancioli.
Pancioli ran a 19:13.94 at Voice of America Park last season. He is joined by fellow seniors Vince Colyer, Christian Duborg and Kirk Easterday.
As of Sept. 2, Pancioli, Easterday and Colyer all had marks inside the top 15 of the Miami Valley Conference. Also in that group is Alex O’Brien and Andrew Breeze-Stringfellow.
Stephen Carter coaches the Eagles.
Cincinnati Country Day won’t have its top runner from last season in Connor Wiley, an all-Miami Valley Conference second-team performer and district participant. He missed out on qualifying for regionals by three spots.
However, the Indians return Charlie Sachs, Max Luebbers, Bobby Flynn, Cooper Ebersbach, Jonah Ice and George Crowley.
Cincinnati Country Day received votes in the week two Enquirer Division II-III coaches’ poll. The Indians are coached by Merle Black.