AUSTINTOWN - Warren G. Harding coach Charles Penny knows his girls track and field team is three-time defending champions at the Trumbull County Meet.
This year's meet starts today at 4 p.m. at Lakeview High School with the 4x800 relay finals, a couple of field event finals and running semifinals. The meet concludes Thursday at 4:30 with the remainder of the running and field event finals.
However, Penny is well aware of a Girard team that has been one of the best in the area - establishing itself at this year's Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches indoor state meet.
The Indians placed first in the 4x400-meter relay and second in the 4x200 relay at the Division II-III OATCCC Meet.
Since then, Girard has won a couple of invitationals and hasn't let up since those two relay victories.
"The Girard girls look pretty good," Penny said. "I think they're doing a great job. Their girls are competing hard, run some good times and do the right things in field events. I give their girls and coaching staff all the credit. They look good."
Girard finished second to Harding last season, 100-87.
The Indians were runners-up in 2001 and '02, but have yet to win a team title since the meet has been at Lakeview - starting in 1995.
"They're still young, a lot of juniors," Penny said. "They're very experienced. They went through the gamut as sophomores. They run some good times. They all ran indoors. They're definitely not intimidated by a Division I program. They've been in big meets.
"They cover pole vault, jumps, do well in sprints, relays. I think they have a special group of girls that have all the intangibles they need to be successful."
However, Penny doesn't want to discount his young Harding team that has a viable chance to win its fourth straight county title.
"I think we have a shot for the title with our freshman group that we have, our kids, our relays and our sprinters. I think we have some athletes that can do some special things," Penny said. "I'm very confident in our kids, our coaches, preparing our kids the right way. I think it's going to be a very good Trumbull County Meet."
Howland track and field coach Dan Libert, whose team won last year's county meet over host Lakeview (119.5-74), said his team has been decimated by injuries and sickness this year.
"I think you have to score in every event to win it," Libert said. "I don't see us scoring in every event this year. Harding, of course, is probably the favorite to win it. McDonald is good. We don't have enough all the way around to win it this year, but we're going to take a shot at it."
Brendan Cope, who had mononucleosis, is trying to get back into his stride. For now, he's doing the 4x100 relay and long jump. Cope was the runner-up in the 100, 200 and long jump at last year's county meet.
"If he gets stronger, we'll put him in other events," Libert said. "Right now, his health is the most important thing."