BAZETTA - You might say the lime green headband around McDonald's Bobby Johnson was a beacon because it lit the way for the senior distance runner for yet another victory.
And this wasn't anotherrun of the mill win he's had this season. Saturday's time of 16 minutes, 18.08 seconds indicated the first of three steps McDonald has this postseason - districts, regionals, state. His Division III victory at the Division III boys cross country district meet was more of a practice run at a Trumbull County Fairgrounds course that was wet and muddy in spots.
"I was hoping to do what I could to win, not do too much in the mud here and save it for the next two weeks, obviously," Johnson said.
It also was a test run for McDonald's No. 2 runner, Allan Coviello, who has been hampered with a back injury for the last month. He was part of the three-person pack of Bryce Street and Zach Hawout, which placed 11th through 13th.
"We all breathed a little sigh now that he's all right," Johnson said. "We were worried with him and that back. With him fine, I think we're OK."
There were no worries with Maplewood, which took first with a pack of Tristan Dahmen (second) Solomon Yoder (fourth) and Derek Morrison (sixth) -- 41 points. McDonald, Berkshire and Pymatuning Valley were the other top four.
The top four teams and top 16 runners advanced to next weekend's regional at Boardman High School.
Maplewood coach Dave Deeter said the versatility of his runners has powered the Rockets all season.
"That's the biggest aspect is they accept that because they did move around today," Deeter said. "There was a lot of movement around, which is good. Mentally, if they accept it, we're in good shape."
Maplewood was in good shape pacing Mineral Ridge's Logan Smith (third).
"We talked about Logan before the race," Deeter said. "He's a solid runner. He's going to run well. Be around that area."
Badger's Owen Reeher was fifth and Mineral Ridge's Nathaniel Toth was 10th.
As for the McDonald girls, the Blue Devils beat out Berkshire, 34-51. Hawken and Bristol were the other two qualifiers.
Badger's Jennilyn Krumpe (fifth), Pymatuning Valley's Saydi Lappe (12th) and Mineral Ridge's Kate Keleman (15th) advance to Boardman.
Rachel Perry, who placed third, said McDonald's practice habits led to the win.
"We like to practice courses enough that we know them as much as our home course," she said.
McDonald's Heidi Hoffman relied on her cognitive abilities to win the Division III girls race in 19:37.91.
"Today, I felt positive about myself," she said. "I thought about pushing myself. I thought about making it to regionals, possibly, hopefully, making it to state. Those things were going though my head. I though about my teammates and how I want them to do good.
"If I pushed myself, I knew my teammates would come. I did it for my teammates and coaches."