For two meets, the Maplewood boys cross country team can say they're perfect.
The Rockets know the 15s they scored in the Northeastern Athletic Conference Meet and at last weekend's Sim Earich Invitationals were just precursors for this team seeking its first state title since 2005.
Wyatt Hartman, Derek Morrison, Solomon Yoder, Mike Dahmen and Tristan Dahmen have been Maplewood's starting five.
Tribune Chronicle file photo / John Vargo
From left, Liberty’s Jon Richmond, McDonald’s Bobby Johnson, Howland’s Ryan Sullivan and Maplewood’s Wyatt Hartman are some of the top runners competing during Saturday’s district cross country meets.
It all begins Saturday at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds with the Division III district starting at 11:30 a.m.
"Perfect score in the last two meets was exciting to watch, and the work accomplished in those meets and our last months of workouts has fueled the team's confidence in their ability to push themselves, and the abilities of their teammates," Maplewood coach Dave Deeter said. "Those were both smaller meets though, and are excited to get into the larger pack races of tournaments."
Standing in Maplewood's way is the defending Division III state champion, McDonald.
District cross country pairings
at Malone College
NOTE: The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to Boardman Regional.
TIMES: Boys race starts at 12:10 p.m., while the girls begin at 1:55 p.m.
BOYS TEAMS: Austintown Fitch, Barberton, Boardman, Canfield, Canton McKinley, Akron Garfield, GlenOak, Green, North Canton Hoover, Howland, Massillon Jackson, Lake, Louisville, Massillon Perry, Canton Timken, Warren G. Harding, Massillon Washington, Wooster, New Philadelphia.
GIRLS TEAMS: Austintown Fitch, Barberton, Boardman, Canfield, Canton McKinley, GlenOak, Green, North Canton Hoover, Howland, Massillon Jackson, Lake, Louisville, Massillon Perry, Canton Timken, Warren G. Harding, Massillon Washington, Wooster, New Philadelphia.
at Trumbull County
NOTE: The top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to Boardman Regional.
TIMES: The boys race starts at 12:10 p.m., while the girls race starts at 1:30 p.m.
BOYS TEAMS: Brookfield, Cardinal Mooney, Champion, Garfield, Girard, Grand Valley, Jefferson, LaBrae, Lakeview, Liberty, Niles, Poland, Pymatuning Valley, Southeast, Struthers, Wickliffe
GIRLS TEAMS: Cardinal Mooney, Garfield, Girard, Jefferson, LaBrae, Lakeview, Liberty, Niles, Poland, Pymatuning Valley, Southeast, Struthers.
at Trumbull County
NOTE: The top three boys teams and top 12 individuals advance to Boardman Regional. The top five girls teams and top 20 individuals advance to Boardman Regional.
TIMES: Boys race begins at 11:30 a.m., while the girls starts at 12:50 p.m.
BOYS TEAMS: Badger, Bristol, Southington (individual), Jackson-Milton, Lordstown, Lowellville, Maplewood, McDonald, Mineral Ridge, Rootstown, South Range, Springfield, Ursuline, John F. Kennedy, Western Reserve.
GIRLS TEAMS: Badger, Bristol, Brookfield, Southington (individual), Champion, Grand Valley, Jackson-Milton, Lordstown, Lowellville, Maplewood, McDonald, Mineral Ridge, Rootstown, South Range, Springfield, Ursuline, John F. Kennedy, Western Reserve, Wickliffe.
The Blue Devils only lost one runner out of their top five from last year - current Youngstown State University freshman Kyle Joynes.
Patrick Kunkel, Bobby Johnson, Allan Coviello and Tyler Smith returned and David Natoli has made a strong push to be the team's fifth runner.
"Last year we had the best five in the state, and things went our way at state, and we won," McDonald coach Chris Rupe said. "Graduating Kyle Joynes left a huge gap, but a big group of guys have worked at filling that gap. It has gradually happened, and I am anticipating good things from those guys over the weeks to come."
Maplewood and McDonald are the favorites to take two of the three qualifying spots for regionals.
Deeter said he knows the path to the state meet still runs through McDonald.
"McDonald is the defending state champions," Deeter said. "They only lost one athlete from last years top five and have had a great deal of guys step up this year, as well as having a tradition of performing well at the state meet. They are very deserving of being ranked as high as they have been. Our team won large meets outside of our area such as the OHSAA preseason meet and Tiffin early in the season which rocketed our team to the top of the state rankings. Winning some of the larger local meets (Boardman, Legends) in the middle and end of the season has keep us in the top two rankings. Being ranked in the top two is exciting, but the only ranking that really matters is the one that occurs at the state meet."
Rupe said Seneca East and Maplewood are the top two teams in the state, along with Columbus Grove and Garaway.
"Maplewood is a very good team, the best team in the state," Rupe said. "We are preparing to make a strong run at them over the upcoming weeks. Although we want to be ready for districts, our priorities are to be ready the following week. So first we have to qualify to regionals, then get excited about running there."
In addition to the Maplewood and McDonald runners, look for Badger's Owen Reeher and South Range's Tim Nichols to break into the top 12.
In the girls races, Maplewood's Alanna Shamrock and Erin Pavick, McDonald's Heidi Hoffman, Badger's Jennilyn Krumpe and Grand Valley's Jessica Finley are some of the top runners on the girls side.
The top five teams and top 20 runners go on to regionals.
Maplewood, Badger and McDonald are the top girls teams.
Lakeview's boys cross country team has been a staple at regionals for the past couple of seasons.
This year, the Bulldogs and Jefferson are the favorites for the district title at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds.
Harris, Chris Edie and Adam Bogard are Lakeview's top three.
"Our team should just have to go out and continue to run like we have this season and take care of business we should be able to move on to the Boardman Regional meet," said Lakeview runner Eric Harris. "If we run up to our full capability we have a shot at the district title, and that is our main team goal for next weekend."
Last season, Harris advanced to the state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
"Last year was a surprise to me finishing in the top 16 at regionals, but this year I would be very disappointed in myself if I was able to take the trip down south for my senior season," Harris said. "I ran a good race at Spartan in September and I hope I can continue my good string of races at Boardman at regionals."
Liberty's Jon Richmond, who finished second last year at regionals, is the favorite to win this year.
The top four teams and top 16 boys and girls individuals advance to Boardman.
On the girls side, Poland has dominated all year and could vie for a state championship.
The Bulldogs are led by Libby Rogenski and the sisters Klim (McKinsie, Michelle and Melissa).
Also, Girard's girls should advance as well and possibly come in second behind Poland.
The Indians are paced by Domenique Hall, Tina Boyles and Taylor Harshbarger.
Boardman's boys team has dominated most every race this year and recently won the Federal League championship.
The Spartans are led by the trio of Mark Hadley, Alan Burns and Nathan Hadley.
Mark placed fifth in the state last season and is vying for an individual state championship this season.
Don't be surprised if the Spartans claim the district title Saturday at Malone College.
The top five teams and top 20 runners go on to the Boardman Regional.
Also running at Malone is Howland.
The boys and girls teams have excelled this season, led by Ryan Sullivan on the boys side and Taylor Craigo for the girls.
Howland's boys has had the 1-2 punch of Sullivan and Connor Dotson, which should move on to regionals.
Harris, whose Lakeview team ran at Malone earlier this season, has some advice for the Howland runners.
"If I were to give them advice about Malone, I would tell them that it's a fast course as long as it's dry and they just need to go out and have fun and keep running how they have been all year and they should have a good race," Harris said. "Malone is a great place to run fast and just an overall great course, and great venue for a meet. It is late October in Ohio though and they need to be prepared for any type of weather and course conditions."
Also, look for Canfield's Emma Lunne and Fitch's Carissa Jenkins to advance to regionals.
Follow Saturday's Division II and III districts from the Trumbull County Fairgrounds on Twitter @jvargoTrib