Warren G. Harding boys track and field team faces its first real test Saturday in Mansfield.
The famed Mehock Relays draws some of the best athletes and teams from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Ontario, Canada.
The Raiders are coming off of team victories at the Ward Invitational in East Palestine and F.E. Cope Invitational in Salem in back-to-back weekends.
Sure, both are quality victories, but Saturday is a true litmus test for the Harding boys. The meet starts today with most of the boys and girls distance events and the girls track and field events being contested.
The boys field and preliminary sprint events are Saturday morning with the sprint finals starting around 1 p.m.
"If we come away winning the meet, then we put ourselves in a great position with our training cycle and where our team stands for the remainder of the year," WGH coach Charles Penny said. "If we don't come out with a great performance, then we know we have to tweak some things and make the appropriate adjustments. It's not an end all-type meet where if we don't win our season is done. It's just a great test because the teams we compete against are all at the state level and Division I. We're all relatively in the same situation."
Last year, WGH finished third behind defending champion Cleveland Glenville and second place Dayton Dunbar at Mehock.
Interestingly enough, Harding took third at last year's Division I state meet and Glenville was second behind defending state champion Gahanna Lincoln.
Harding hosts Glenville during an April 27 dual meet. This dual meet has a lot more meaning than most duals because of the circumstances and talent level encompassing the titanic matchup. It would be comparable to the WGH football team playing a team like Cincinnati St. Xavier or Cleveland St. Ignatius in a mid-season matchup. It's one of those must-see events.
Speaking of Ignatius, WGH went to Cleveland Wednesday to take on the Wildcats and two other short-handed Cleveland-area teams. Penny said the WGH-Ignatius pairing was scored as a dual meet and the Raiders won by one point.
In the Raiders' mind, that victory doesn't mean they have reached their pinnacle.
Penny has stated on many occasions he's wanted WGH to be one of the best in Ohio - eventually bringing home a Division I state team title.
Until then, he's hesitant to put his team alongside the Buckeye State's elite.
"I would never say we're on par. I really wouldn't say we're justified as a program until we win a state title," Penny said. "Until then, you cannot put us in the same classification as Glenville, St. Ignatius and Dayton Dunbar. They have done that as a program and we have not.
"What you can say is, as a program, we're moving in the right direction to where we can someday be in the same sentence along with a Glenville and St. Ignatius. I think the validation comes from winning a state title, at least in my mind."
WGH isn't the only team to be tested this weekend.