Motivation. This year's cross country season has had plenty of it and it'll carry through into the 2014 season in Trumbull County.
McDonald boys coach Chris Rupe, who admittedly was more vocal in years past, motivated his team to the school's second Division III state championship at National Trail Raceway in three years. It was the school's seventh state championship, second-most cross country titles in Ohio history to Caldwell, which has nine.
McDonald's Bobby Johnson won the school's first individual title since Stuart Henderson in 1989 and it was the first time a Trumbull County athlete won that honor and led their team to a state title since Andy Arnio won in 2005 - leading Maplewood to Division III glory.
The Blue Devils saw senior Allan Coviello suffer a back injury, which cut short a good portion of his senior season. However, he rallied to help motivate his team to a state title.
Will McDonald feel a drop off next season? I'm not betting on it. Those returning athletes have the motivation they felt from Johnson and Coviello, have Rupe molding them and, thanks to the tradition, will not allow any kind of decline.
Maplewood, which finished second to McDonald, took a young team into state and came away with the highest finish since winning state in 2005.
Tristan Dahmen, only a sophomore, took second to Johnson in Division III. The Rockets return a majority of their team next season.
Maplewood has plenty of reason to be motivated for next season.
Champion sophomore Allen Sparks was the sparkplug for the Golden Flashes this season, finishing with a ninth-place finish in Division II - a finish that even surprised the talented Champion runner.
He and teammate Nick Mackey paced the Golden Flashes to the team's first All-American Conference, National Division boys title this year. It also stopped Lakeview's string of domination in the AAC, dating back to the old TAC-8 days.
Sparks will power Champion next year, but let's not forget Lakeview. The Bulldogs will be motivated to hand Champion a loss in next year's AAC meet.
Howland's boys have won the AAC, American Division meet the past couple of seasons. The Tigers' dominance has been in the making.
Ryan Sullivan's 11th-place finish in the Division I state meet and this year's regional appearance gave Howland's returning runners plenty of motivation to continue to excel next season.
McDonald's Heidi Hoffman placed in the top 25 in the Division III girls race, representing a girls team that missed state by one point.
You can bet McDonald's girls have plenty of motivation for next season.
Then, there's Mineral Ridge's Logan Smith. The Rams junior ran with Johnson this past summer and came through with a top-20 finish in Division III.
Mineral Ridge's boys will be motivated to follow in Smith's footsteps.