BAZETTA - Mike Austin remembered the lessons he learned as a runner at Mineral Ridge High School under coach Ron Toth.
"Teamwork," said Austin, who graduated from Mineral Ridge in 2005. "You could always be better as a team than by yourself. We're trying to get these girls to realize it by saying you're a team. You need to do for others first, then yourself."
From there, the Bristol High School girls cross country coach knew it took something extra.
"I think just working hard. Simple answer," Austin said. "Working hard always produces. I've always tried to tell the girls there's no magic trick or secret formula. You have to come out, work hard, do the best you can and you'll be happy with the result."
They've listened, and now they've qualified for Saturday's Division III Regional at Boardman High School. The race starts at 11 a.m.
The Panthers qualified by placing fourth at last Saturday's district at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds with 132 points - ahead of fifth-place Cardinal, which had 162 points.
The top four teams and top 16 runners advanced from districts to regionals.
"I thought going into the race we had a chance," Austin said. "The girls have been working really hard this year. This was one of their goals. I think this whole week we had been concentrating on what we had to do, worrying about ourselves and not worrying about what others had to do.
"I told them to give your best effort and run what you're capable of. I thought we had a chance to be right there in the four spot."
At districts, Kimberly Michael, a junior, led the Panthers with a 13th-place finish (21:13.69). Her teammate Rachael Bickford, a sophomore, was 16thwith a time of 21:19.40.
If the team would not have made it to regionals, it would've been the first time since 2004 two runners from Bristol advanced to Boardman.
Jennifer Armour and Audrey Maheu represented Bristol in 2004.
"It really surprised me," said Michael, who won this year's Sim Earich Invitational Division III girls race. "I was a little nervous, but still prepared to do good, do my best."
The last two seasons, Audrey Merlino (2011) and Becca Merlino (2012) advanced to regionals. Becca was third on this year's Panthers team with a time of 21:54.52, placing 22nd.
"We're trying to make the program grow," said Austin, whose team won this year's Northeastern Athletic Conference girls title. "There has been some good history in the past. It's been down for a couple of years and we're trying to get it built back up. We know the community enjoys the team being well. The kids enjoy it.
"Hopefully it will continue and get even better."