District Cross Country. For some, it was only a formality. For others, it was another step to their ultimate goal of regionals or state.
This year, Divisions I through III, the top four teams and top 16 individuals advance to regionals.
The uniform qualifiers are from this year's redistricting. All the Trumbull County teams are in one place for this year's district - the Trumbull County Fairgrounds in Bazetta.
This Saturday's event proves to be one of the most memorable districts in recent memory. Why? Balanced competition from top to bottom.
Take Division III with Maplewood boys and McDonald boys and girls. They are the ones to beat, as usual. But, look for teams like Badger and Mineral Ridge to be in the mix as well with runners from the likes of Ursuline and Bristol.
In Division II, the shift of power had gone to the Champion Golden Flashes. After Lakeview had a stranglehold on the All-American Conference, National Division boys title the past few seasons, Champion surged ahead and has established itself as the top team in this district. Can the Golden Flashes keep the momentum going and win this year's district? I'm sure Lakeview will have a say in that matter.
For the girls, Lakeview and Girard have the top area teams. However, Crestwood is always the team to beat.
Then, step into Division I and you'll find the best race of the day.
Howland, Twinsburg, Boardman, Chardon, Solon and Canfield are vying for the top four spots in the boys race. A couple of very good teams won't make it to regionals at Boardman.
That said, the highlight will be the race between Boardman's Mark Hadley and Chardon's Nick Elswick. Their last race at this year's Spartan Invitational in Boardman was decided by less than a second with Hadley edging Elswick.
Then, add in Twinsburg's Garrett Crichlow and Howland's Ryan Sullivan, and you'll have one of the best districts in the state.
As for the Howland girls, the question remains can the Tigers get a one through five pack to lead them to this year's regional?
The following are the teams competing: Division I: Aurora, Austintown Fitch, Bedford (boys), Boardman, Canfield, Chardon, Howland, Kent Roosevelt, Kenston, Lakeside, Ravenna, Solon, Twinsburg, Warren Harding, West Geauga. Division II: Cardinal Mooney, Champion, Crestwood, Garfield, Girard, Grand Valley, Jefferson, LaBrae, Lakeview, Niles, Poland, Struthers. Division III: Badger, Berkshire, Bristol, Brookfield, Cardinal, Chalker, Hawken, John F. Kennedy, Kirtland, Lordstown, Lowellville, Maplewood, McDonald, Mineral Ridge, Newbury, Pymatuning Valley, Ursuline.
The day begins at 11:30 with the Division III girls, followed by the Division II girls (12:10 p.m.) and Division I girls (12:50 p.m.).
The boys begin with the Division III boys at 1:30 p.m. The Division II boys are at 2:10 p.m., followed by the Division I boys at 2:50 p.m.