MECCA - Team titles in cross country races are decided by places. The more of one particular team crossing the finish line before the other teams usually indicates who won.
However, Tuesday's boys race at the Trumbull County Cross Country Championships at Maplewood High School, the end result was very much in doubt - like the 2000 presidential election.
Maplewood, McDonald and Howland runners clustered in the top 25 spots, but rest assured there were no hanging chads or 24-hour waits to find out a victor.
This year's race provided plenty of drama entering the race as there were more than the normal Maplewood and McDonald vying for the title. Other schools like Mineral Ridge and Champion had runners in the top 10.
"We graduated a lot of good seniors from all around the state," said McDonald senior Bobby Johnson, who won in a time of 15 minutes, 46.7 seconds. "It did even things out a lot - the playing field. It was open today. I'm not sure who won today, but it was pretty close for a team title."
It soon became apparent as Maplewood edged out Howland for the team title, 48-52. McDonald (69), Lakeview (122) and Champion (147) rounded out the top five. McDonald won the previous seven Trumbull County Championships.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
McDonald’s Heidi Hoffman is about ready to cross the finish line as she won the girls Trumbull County Cross Country Championship with a time of 19 minutes and 45 seconds.
"It means a lot to see all my guys working hard," Maplewood's Derek Morrison said. "This is a big meet for us. We try to bring home the gold."
Howland's Ryan Sullivan (15:55.8) and the trio of Maplewood's Tristan Dahmen (16:24.4), Solomon Yoder (16:33.3) and Morrison (16:33.6) completed the top five.
"It's a great meet to work together," Morrison said. "Tristan has been doing great just leading the pack. Solomon, he's been a great second runner. I'm just trying to keep up with those guys."
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Trumbull County Cross Country
at Maplewood High School
TEAM SCORES: 1. McDonald 32, 2. Howland 55, 3. Girard 87, 4. Lakeview 94, 5. Bristol 143, 6. Badger 158, 7. Mineral Ridge 178, 8. Niles McKinley 201, 9. Maplewood 242.
NOTE: Brookfield, Chalker, Champion, John F. Kennedy, LaBrae, Lordstown and Warren G. Harding did not have enough runners to qualify in the team standings.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: 1. Heidi Hoffman (McD) 19:45.4, 2. Morgan Buckley (How) 20:09.2, 3. Domenique Hall (Gir) 20:26.1, 4. Rachel Perry (McD) 20:35.4, 5. Hannah Lovejoy (McD) 20:39.3, 6. Haley Dieter (How) 20:45.2, 7. Jennilyn Krumpe (Bad) 20:48.6, 8. Bobbi Oakes (McD) 21:05.8, 9. Taylor Craigo (How) 21:10.4, 10. Courtney Williams (Gir) 21:13.5, 11. Cammie Becker (Lak) 21:16.2, 12. Kimberly Michael (Bri) 21:20.9, 13. Tiffany Vega (Lak) 21:21.8, 14. Renee Meser (McD) 21:27.5, 15. Hollie Frantz (Lak) 21:34.5, 16. Gabrielle Chaffin (Nil) 21:34.7, 17. Emily Krafcik (How) 21:39.6, 18. Yasmeen ElNobani (McD) 21:45.5, 19. Brenna Rupe (McD) 21:45.6, 20. Tina Boyles (Gir) 21:52.8, 21. Lauren Hamilton (How) 21:55.8, 22. Addison Paul (Lak) 21:59.3, 23. Becca Merlino (Bri) 22:06.6, 24. Taylor Harshbarger (Gir) 22:15.8, 25. Vanessa Perry (McD) 22:17.0.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Trumbull County Cross Country
at Maplewood High School
TEAM SCORES: 1. Maplewood 48, 2. Howland 52, 3. McDonald 69, 4. Lakeview 122, 5. Champion 147, 6. Mineral Ridge 189, 7. Badger 208, 8. Lordstown 226, 9. Girard 232, 10. LaBrae 238, 11. Brookfield 301, 12. Niles McKinley 318.
NOTE: Bristol, Warren G. Harding, Chalker and John F. Kennedy did not have enough runners to qualify in the team standings.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: 1. Bobby Johnson (McD) 15:46.7, 2. Ryan Sullivan (How) 15:55.8, 3. Tristan Dahmen (Map) 16:24.4, 4. Solomon Yoder (Map) 16:33.3, 5. Derek Morrison (Map) 16:33.6, 6. Ethan Petrilla (How) 16:39.1, 7. Allen Sparks (Cha) 16:47.1, 8. Logan Smith (MR) 16:48.1, 9. Owen Reeher (Bad) 16:50.7, 10. Jake Hall (Map) 16:54.2, 11. Nicholas Mackey (Cha) 16:55.7, 12. Chris Edie (Lak) 16:57.9, 13. Tyler Messina (How) 17:11.5, 14. Ben Cole (How) 17:16.0, 15. David Natoli (McD) 17:17.1, 16. Daniel Loomis (McD) 17:24.1, 17. Ethan Neff (How) 17:25.7, 18. Bryce Street (McD) 17:31.4, 19. Marco Mediati (McD) 17:35.0, 20. Nathanael Toth (MR) 17:37.3, 21. Zach Hawout (McD) 17:38.1, 22. Aaron Lamer (Lak) 17:38.3, 23. Derek Basinger (Gir) 17:39.8, 24. Lucas Garland (McD) 17:47.9, 25. Adam Bogard (Lak) 17:53.4
Johnson took the early lead, but Sullivan was trailing him quite closely. As Johnson headed into the final 100 meters of the 5K race, he saw the clock ticking off the time, but knew Sullivan wasn't far behind.
"I think most of it came from I had a guy pushing right behind me. All the times this year, I really haven't had that - a guy pushing right back there. Today, I got it. It was awesome to be able to do that. It gave me that extra burst that I needed to finish strong."
McDonald's Heidi Hoffman pushed past a trio of Howland runners - Morgan Buckley, Taylor Craigo and Hailey Dieter after the first mile and took control of the race. She pulled away and ran 19:45.4. Buckley, who won the 2011 county title, was second (20:09.2). Girard's Domenique Hall (20:26.1) and McDonald's Rachel Perry (20:35.4) and Hannah Lovejoy (20:39.3) rounded out the top five.
"We each picked a place where we thought we could push each other," Hoffman said. "I like running in the woods area, so that's what pushed me. That's where I took off. I knew if I didn't go in a certain place, I was hoping to get that push at the end."
For the second straight year, McDonald beat Howland for the team title. Tuesday, McDonald outscored Howland, 32-55. Girard (87), Lakeview (94) and Bristol (143) completed the top five.
"We were trying to get real positive with ourselves (Monday)," Hoffman said. "We were doing like a visualization. We made ourselves positive and we knew what we had to do today."
Maplewood, which is the top-ranked team in the latest Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Poll, said they haven't paid attention to that accolade. Their work ethic is more important, Morrison said.
"We really haven't paid much attention to that, just keep working hard," he said. "They've been showing a lot of hard work and improvement. That's what you want to see."