The best two boys cross country teams in Division III have seen each other all season.
For years, both programs have know each other's strategy. In fact, both team's outlook, one could say, mirrors one another.
McDonald has six state titles in its school's history (1982, 1983, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2011), while Maplewood lays claim to five (1972, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005).
Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo
Maplewood’s Mike Dahmen, left, and Derek Morrison, were part of Maplewood’s Division III district championship boys cross country team last Saturday at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds.
Both Maplewood's and McDonald's teams are seeking a trip back to the state meet on Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Before the top two ranked teams in the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches can advance, they'll have to take on the Boardman High School course Saturday. The Division III boys race starts at 11:05 a.m.
Both teams aren't concentrating on one another, but being introspective.
Regional meet facts and figures
Schedule: 11 a.m.: Division III boys; 11:45 a.m.: Division II boys; 12:30 p.m.: Division I boys; 1:30 p.m.: Division III girls; 2:15 p.m.: Division II girls; 3 p.m.: Division I girls.
State qualifiers: Top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to state.
Division I boys: Austintown Fitch: Bryce Baker, Patrick Ferguson; Boardman: Alan Burns, Mark Hadley, Nathan Hadley, Jacob Kelleck, Justin Maroni, Juan Santiago, Sam Sheronovich; Canfield: Rollin Bresson; Howland: Ryan Sullivan.
Division I girls: Austintown Fitch: Carissa Jenkins; Boardman: Daisy Corso, Trista Cunningham, Brandi Gatte, Jordan Grantonic, Elly Larrier, Julia Lewis, Emma Schwendeman; Howland: Taylor Craigo.
Division II boys: Champion: Nick Mackey, Allen Sparks; Girard: Kade Swartz; Lakeview: Adam Bogard, Nate Butler, Chris Edie, Eric Harris, Aaron Lamer, Jake Tomko, Alex Vine; Liberty, Jonathon Richmond; Pymatuning Valley: Rodney Bell, Jackson Bogardus, Aaron Cross, Rory Gallatin, Chet Mientkiewicz, Corry Mientkiewicz, Drew Wonderling; Southeast: Bill Cutlip, Jacob Durr, Brandon McCullough, Corey Pastva, Nick Sampson, Ray Stull, Nick Tarter.
Division II girls: Garfield: Josie Baum, Mariah Coulter, Caroline Hahn, Lindsey Jones, Molly Mathews, Jessica Moore, Johannah Stefanek; Girard: Tina Boyles, Jackie Butler, Domenique Hall, Taylor Harshbarger, Justine Kagy, Jackie Kenreich, Courtney Williams; LaBrae: Amanda Richards; Southeast: Jenna Amodio, Madison Dunn, Mackenzie Hughes, Miranda Hughes, Katelyn McCullough, Quinn Sparks, Lydia Wallbrown; Struthers: Catlyn Walker.
Division III boys: Badger: Owen Reeher; Maplewood: Mike Dahmen, Tristan Dahmen, Wyatt Hartman, Derek Morrison, Scott Rupe, Charlie Woodrum, Solomon Yoder; McDonald: Zach Hawout, Patrick Kunkel, Bobby Johnson, Alan Coviello, David Natoli, Tyler Smith, Bryce Street; Mineral Ridge: Logan Smith; South Range: Tim Nichols.
Division III girls: Badger: Katelyn Bevilacqua, Iliana Garcia, Maranda Helmick, Jennilyn Krumpe, Kelsey Mislai, Shelby Niessner, Dana Yeater; Bristol: Becca Merlino; Grand Valley: Jessica Finley; Maplewood: Erin Pavick, Alanna Shamrock; McDonald: Abby D'Amore, Yasmeen Elnobani, Heidi Hoffman, Sarah Jones, Bobbi Oakes, Rachel Perry, Brenna Rupe; Mineral Ridge: Tatum Flesch; South Range: Danielle Buzzacco, Matti Dunham, Emily Fromel, Lauren Herubin, Madelyn Kimpel, Monica Patrick, Mollie Pierson.
"We've taken the attitude we're going to look at ourselves and being as good as a team that we can be at a particular day and a particular time," McDonald coach Chris Rupe said. "We really can't control what other teams do. We can control what we do. I think it would surprise people how little our focus is on Maplewood and how much our focus is on McDonald."
"We're not looking at them," Maplewood coach Dave Deeter said. "Chris takes the same philosophy. If you look at one team and you put your whole race on one team, that team runs great, you're not going to run as well. You just have an average day. Whoever runs great that day wins. That's the way it works. Their top two people (Patrick Kunkel and Bobby Johnson) run great.
"They're pretty much even teams. If you look at everybody in the same race, they're about equal."
Recent history hasn't been that even for either team.
Maplewood made it back to state last season after breaking a streak of 20 straight years making it to state two seasons ago.
"The goal is still make it to state this year," Deeter said. "That's still the primary goal and you have goals beyond that.
"It says a lot for them, the work they've put in, that they are ranked so high. We know that from the type of races they've put in, some of those bigger meets. I know it gives them confidence, but they still know they have to go out and do the work during the race."
Maplewood senior Wyatt Hartman said not running in a do-or-die situation makes it nicer.
"Usually when we go to Boardman, we're fighting and clawing to get out," Hartman said. "This year, it's not like we have to run our absolute best to make it out. There's a little leeway there, which is nice going in, but at the same time we realize it's going to be tough to make it out.
"We're looking for some of our guys, guys in the top five, to have some good races and get our confidence up for state. It's always important to have some good races, have a lot of confidence. We're going to go in, shoot for our best and see what happens."
For McDonald, it's been a solid couple of weeks leading up to regionals where the top four teams and top 16 in each race advance to state. Besides Maplewood and McDonald, Rupe said Berkshire, Gilmour Academy, New London and Independence are the teams to watch.
"In the last two weeks, we've hit some of the most amazing training that I've ever coached a team through," Rupe said. "It's just been essentially a string of really, really good workouts."
That's been a highlight for a McDonald team that has endured some setbacks this season.
"I think we have to run well," Rupe said. "We've been all season pointing toward this and to look back toward our record for this year. In a lot of ways, we've taken some hits along the way. It's been a little bit different year than last year. Last year, after the first meet, we pretty much won all the rest.
"This year, for a few different reasons, we've taken a little different approach. Plus, Maplewood has been a better team locally this year compared to last year. Plus, Boardman is a strong team this year. We haven't won quite as much as they have. We've spent a lot of time trying to get to be as good of a team as we can be these last few weeks. That at sometimes, have confused people why we haven't had people not race or gone to certain races. It's about pointing toward ourselves, having ourselves ready as possible as we can be right now."
The only thing that might change anybody's strategy Saturday is the forecast is for a high of 50 degrees and rain, according to weather.com
"We're certainly used to that because the last couple of regionals have been mud pits," Hartman said. "I remember last year we got up to the starting line and we duck taped our spikes because it was so muddy. Then, they told us we had to change our chips around. We had to hurry up, take the duck tape off and redo that before the race started. We had our fair share of bad weather and dealing with that. We're ready for anything that gets thrown at us.
"As far as race strategy, it might change it a little bit. Sometimes, generally, if its really muddy, tend to not go out quite as fast because it can take a lot out of your legs. Overall, it doesn't effect our strategy too much going into it. We keep the same thing and not really worry about the weather, try not to make it a huge factor and keep it out of our minds."