Howland's girls cross country team has featured the last two individual Trumbull County girls cross country champions in Morgan Buckley (2011 at McDonald) and Taylor Craigo (2012 in Brookfield).
This year, at the Trumbull County Championships in Maplewood, the Tigers want to bring home the team championship for the first time since the meet has been run in 1992.
The Tigers were runners-up last season at Brookfield to McDonald, but Howland wants to prove it has a great trio of runners to lead this pack.
Tribune Chronicle file photo
Howland junior Morgan Buckley is one of the anchors of this year’s Howland cross country team. In 2011, she won the Trumbull County Meet.
Besides juniors Buckley and Craigo, senior Hailey Dieter adds to the mix.
"She runs faster than the other two," Howland coach Dan Libert said of Dieter. "I have three girls in the 19s (minutes). They're really disappointed on how they performed last year. They really put in a good year of work this year. Any one of them could be my No. 1 to No. 3 on a meet-by-meet basis. They're that good."
Emily Krafcik, Lauren Walls, Lauren Hamilton, Amanda Bertilacci round out the top seven.
"I have more depth on the girls team than I've had. I have good group of freshmen come in, girls who are willing to work hard," Libert said. "Out of the girls team, we didn't lose anybody out of the top seven."
He'll see if this group can perform well at county and beyond.
"Their attitude, how they approach the practice and the workouts, has been much better. I'm real curious to see how this transforms into a race," Libert said.
McDONALD: The Blue Devils had their best Division III state finish in a decade last season.
McDonald took ninth and was a couple points away from seventh-place Berkshire.
"The goal was to end last year top 10 in state," McDonald coach Michael Richards said. "I would say improve upon that by the end of the season. We haven't talked about that as a team. What we're focusing on now is county."
They'll get a chance to see the county course Thursday at the Maplewood Invitational.
"We're not sure what our goal is," Richards said. "Berkshire will not be there. We were hoping to see them early on That's one team we will be gauging."
Heidi Hoffman, Rachel Perry, Bobbi Oakes, Brenna Rupe and Yasmeen ElNobani are some of the runners that will lead this year's Blue Devils team.
"Freshmen looking pretty good right now. We' ll have a pretty nice young team," Richards said.
The team, which has went to Walsh Jesuit Tomahawk Run the past couple of season, returns to the vaunted Tiffin Carnival the first Saturday of September to see some of the state's best teams compete on a flat course, similar to the one at the state course at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
Richards hopes his team can learn from the experiences running against state powers like Minster and Versailles.
"We're hoping our girls, see that competition in Division III," Richards said.
SOUTH RANGE: The Raiders lost two seniors in Danielle Buzzacco and Monica Patrick, but have plenty of underclassmen to push the Raiders quite far this season.
First, South Range returns district champion - Mollie Pierson, a sophomore.
Sophomores Madelyn Kimpel, Emily Fromel, senior Matti Dunham and junior Lauren Herubin return from last year's top seven.
But senior leadership is hard to replace, coach Diane Krumpak said.
"Both of those girls were great leaders and had a lot of heart. That's hard to replace," she said.
This offseason, Krumpak said her team went to a camp with McDonald's girls.
"We have a stronger work ethic this season. We put in more miles this summer," Krumpak said.
She said McDonald's team is a good gauge for their program.
"They have such a strong program," Krumpak said. "It always gives our girls something to shoot for. They know McDonald is at regionals. They know Berkshire is solid year in, year out, along with Gilmour Academy, St. Thomas Aquinas. It's always nice to have those teams and say, 'Hey, that's what we're shooting for.'"
South Range has 24 girls on the roster and Krumpak said 10 to 12 of them run in groups. She hopes those girls will overcome the competition this season.
"One of the big focuses we're having this year is having confidence and being mentally tough," she said.
It starts with today's Salem Early Bird Invitational.
BADGER: Last season, the Braves edged out Maplewood for the Northeastern Athletic Conference.
"We are returning seven runners from last year. We barely won it last year. Defending our title is one of our goals. It could be close again," Badger coach Carrie Albert said.
The Braves will be without senior Dana Yeater, who had a stress fracture at the end of last cross country season and was diagnosed with tendinitis a couple of months ago.
She was the No. 2 runner behind Jennilyn Krumpe.
"That was a really big loss," Albert said. "She has run every year since seventh grade. She's a hard worker and a great kid to have around."
The other obstacle is that four of the eight runners are on the soccer team, but it gives Badger a deeper team than most years. The group will be together for NACs, county and districts.
Besides Krumpe, Melissa Bacon and Danielle Ford are the other seniors. Samantha Greathouse, Iliana Garcia and Kelsey Mislai are the juniors. Katelyn Bevilacqua is a sophomore, while Heather Oney is a freshman.
"Our goal is to defend the NAC Championship," Albert said. "We qualified for regionals last three years in a row. We'd like to do that again. If everybody is healthy and runs what they are capable of doing."