Butler and Youngstown State University are the beneficiaries of some the best track and field and cross country athletes, not only in Trumbull County, but the nation.
McDonald High School senior Bobby Johnson, who won the individual Division III state cross country title and led the Blue Devils to their second team title in three years, was thought to be heading toward Columbus and Ohio State for college. The first day athletes can sign is Feb. 5.
After mulling over OSU, Oklahoma and Akron, it took a 1-hour drive east on I-70 through the heart of Indiana for Johnson to sway his decision.
Johnson was heading home from the Nike Midwest Regional in Terre Haute, Ind., after taking 13th. He stopped at Butler University in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs are known for their men's basketball team getting to back-to-back NCAA Championship games under now-Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens.
But Johnson won't be shooting jump shots in Hinkle Fieldhouse. His forte is running in the fields and tracks for Butler.
"It's kind of a McDonald feel," Johnson said. "It's a small program that does well with the talent they get. They don't get 5-star recruits, but they turn what they get in to quality stuff.
"I like what they've done over the many years coach Matt Roe has been there."
John F. Kennedy senior Carl Zallow, on the other hand, is all about speed.
He is one of the best runners in the country. His 60- and 300-meter dashes rank best in Ohio, according to milesplit.com.
Zallow had offers from other schools, but the facilities at YSU, especially the WATTS Center attracted the prolific JFK athlete to the Penguins' fold.
"It's a 300-meter track, which is pretty rare compared to tracks across the country," Zallow said. "Usually it's a 200-meter track.
"They've built an outdoor track. Both are very beautiful."
Zallow is the defending Division III 100-meter state champion in the outdoor season. You can bet he wants to get back to Columbus once again.
"The first thing on my mind is to repeat as a state champion in the 100-meter dash," he said. "That's my ultimate goal in the season. I want to improve on my 200-meter time. Hopefully, I can be a state champion in that field."
Johnson took second in the Division III outdoor 3,200-meter dash last season at state. He, like Zallow, is focused on possibly finishing his career in Columbus.
"By the end of the year, I'll probably focus on the 2-mile," Johnson said. "There's a small chance I'll probably double. Mostly, I'd like to get a quality run in the 2-mile if I'm fortunate enough to run at the state meet again."
Come next fall, both Butler and YSU will lay claim to two of the best Trumbull County has to offer.