Call the first month and a half an opening act.
The athletic competition builds within each track and field athlete, preparing for these final three weeks - districts, regionals and state.
That prep time is spent fine tuning handoffs, takeoffs, jumps and landings, and a time spent avoiding serious or even season-ending injuries.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Harding’s Alexandra Allen runs the 4x100-meter relay at the Trumbull County Meet in Cortland. Allen, who excels in the 100 and 300 hurdles, could find herself at the state meet in Columbus.
You might say the athletes remained entertained heading into this week's districts, which begin with the Division I at Austintown and the Division III at Springfield and Independence.
Now, it's time to meet some of those athletes that will be heading the next three weeks:
LAUREN SCHATTINGER, LAKEVIEW: This senior has been a staple in at Division II state meet, coming close to wining the 100-meter dash last season. The person standing in her way to gold in either the 100 or 200 is Columbus Eastmoor's Aaliyah Barnes. She won both events and edged Schattinger in last year's 100 final. Schattinger, a Miami of Ohio recruit, should capture some district and regional titles en route to this year's state meet on June 1-2 in Columbus. In addition, the way Barnes is running this year, she may well capture the 100, 200 and 400 state titles this season.
JENNILYN KRUMPE, BADGER: Baring injury, this sophomore should find herself in the girls 400 Division III state final. The only one stopping her is either a disqualification or herself. Not saying she'll capture state, but placing top four is a strong possibility. She's been running consistently less than a minute in the last couple of weeks and bolted around the track at 57.64 at the Trumbull County Meet - breaking her own school record. In addition, she ran quite well against Division I competition days later at the Optimist Meet in Austintown.
ALEXANDRA ALLEN, WARREN G. HARDING: The WGH senior captured the girls running events MVP at this year's Trumbull County Meet, leading the Raiders to a three-peat team title. Her 14.50 in the 100 hurdles she ran at last week's Lake Erie League championships proves she's a force in the Division I 100 and 300 hurdles. She'll enhance the Raiders' chances of scoring in multiple events in the next three weeks.
MEGAN GUNTHER, LaBRAE: Arguably the best Division II hurdler in the area, the Vikings junior has made her mark in the 100 and 300 events. The only question remains is can she advance to the state finals in both events?
GIRLS THROWING TRIFECTA: McDonald teammates Jai'lyn Mosley and Tory Ross, along with Newton Falls' Shannon Montgomery all could make state in the discus. Mosley and Ross both advanced to regionals last season, but that's where it ended for those two Blue Devils. This season, they are some of the better throwers in Division III. As for Montgomery, she has stood out in Division II and could vault herself atop the podium if that throw of more than 140 feet reveals itself in Columbus.
WYATT HARTMAN, MAPLEWOOD: The Maplewood junior ran 1:57.06 in the 800 at the Optimist Meet against Division I competition. He's run well in those better meets and had great races against Lakeview's Eric Harris. However, Hartman has to overcome Samuel Prakel of Versailles to have shot of winning state - a tough task to say the least.
BOBBY JOHNSON, McDONALD: This sophomore has shades of former Maplewood great Andy Arnio, who won the Division III 3,200 his sophomore year (2005). Johnson ran 9:26.78 at the Optimist, finishing behind Independence's Kyle Polman (9:25.88). However, Prakel is the runner to beat. The question is can Prakel run the 1,600, then the 800 and finish with the 3,200. It seems unlikely, especially if temperatures start charging into the mid-to-upper 80s. Anything cooler and Prakel could roll in a trifecta at state.
VALENTINO SEWELL, EAST: The Panthers senior has one of the best 110 hurdles times in the state (14.38). In one of the toughest regions in the state, he'll need every bit of that to get out of Fitch and on to Columbus. If he gets there, a top four could be in his future.
BOYS SPRINT RELAYS: Boardman and Fitch's 4x100 teams own two of the top 10 times in the state. You might say, Boardman? I though they were a distance school. However, the Spartans are for real this season. As for the Falcons, they are very talented in the 4x100 and 4x200.
JAY JAKOVINA, FITCH: This Falcons senior owns the best high jump performance in the state with a 6-10 height at the Optimist. He'll be on his own facility - the same one he set this mark - for districts and regionals. It's a huge advantage for this Youngstown State University recruit and odds-on favorite to win this Division I state championship.
BILLY PRICE, FITCH: This talented lineman has been a force for the Falcons football team. The next three weeks, Price will showcase his discus and shot put abilities in Division I. He has thrown 191-7 in the discus (second in the state) and has 58-1 in the shot put. He has some tough competition once he reaches Columbus in Western Brown's Mack Tudor, who has surpassed the 200-foot mark in the discus and 62 feet in the shot put. Logan's Coy Blair has went over 65 feet in the shot put.
STEPHEN LYONS, SPRINGFIELD LOCAL: The Tigers senior finished second to McDonald's Matthias Tayala last season in Division III in the shot put. This season, Lyons leads all D-III throwers with 63-10. It's his to win. Match this mark and the gold is as good as around his neck.
Surprises, there's always a few along the way. In the next few weeks, a handful of athletes not mentioned here will make their mark as well in a main event of Division II-III track and field in the state - Trumbull and Mahoning Counties.