More of the same

BOARDMAN – The trio of Tristan Dahmen, Solomon Yoder and Derek Morrison have been the three runners most teams don’t want to see in their rear-view mirrors.

The Maplewood High School runners always have a reserved spot in the fast lane in most courses they trod.

Saturday, the Rockets conquered the Boardman High School course and captured the Division III boys regional cross country championship by edging out Seneca East, 82-86. McDonald was third with 99 points, while Gilmour Academy took fourth (133).

McDonald continued its streak of making it to state competition – going every year since 1999.

Dahmen took second (16:19.51), Yoder was eighth (16:41.22) and Morrison was 18th (17:02.77). The three are pretty interchangeable and have been during the season, toggling as the team’s No. 1 runner.

Also, Jake Hall took 26th (17:19.16) and Zach Leatherberry placed 44th (17:37.05).

“It’s my favorite,” Yoder said. “We all work really hard with each other in workouts. It translates into great races with us. It’s great to have teammates you can push with.

“If you have a bad race, the other guys will help you through that. So, it’s really nice.”

Maplewood, the No. 1-ranked Division III boys team in the state, according to the final Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Poll, knew today’s regional victory is only one more step to making a good appearance at next Saturday’s state meet at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

“The main thing today was get to state,” Yoder said. “I think we had a really good race. Today was a good day.”

Seneca East, the defending Division III state champions, is ranked second in the poll. McDonald is third, while Gilmour Academy is sixth – making the Boardman regional the toughest one in the state.

“It was pretty good motivation, but we knew who we were racing today,” Yoder said. “We were racing Seneca East and McDonald. McDonald always runs good at regionals and state. We knew they would be pretty high and Seneca East was on the list. They pushed us pretty good.”

McDonald’s Bobby Johnson was hoping to get a push from the field today. Instead, the Blue Devils senior runner, who has been ahead of the pack all season, won the regional title in a time of 16:02.33.

“I thought I’d have some guys on my butt a little bit more,” he said. “It worked out nice that I was able to control things, kind of settle in for next week. It would’ve been nice to draft a little more.

“You take what you can get. I’m not going to complain for a win.”

He was told by his coach, Chris Rupe, to not go all out on Saturday.

“My coach wanted me to hold back a little bit today because he wanted me to save it for next weekend,” Johnson said. “I did feel really good. It was tough to hold back. I was getting ready to go against it, but I have to listen to him. He knows what’s best for me. Things are looking good.”

Things are looking really good for Mineral Ridge’s Logan Smith, which is the school’s first state qualifier since Nicole Moore went in 1999.

“I had a lot of motivation to make it to state,” said Smith, who placed sixth in a time of 16:33.38.

Ironically, Smith and Johnson trained with each other during the summer.

“During the summer we ran every day, Monday through Friday,” Smith said. “I really pushed myself to get faster for this year. He’s a really good runner. I learned a lot from him.”

“Not to start too fast at the beginning and push my pace throughout the whole race.”

As Johnson was pacing himself around the course, he had plenty of supporters cheering him along – including his mom’s oversized cowbell ringing as her son ran by on the Boardman course.

“It’s always huge,” Johnson said of the support. “I like to look people in the eye when I’m running. They’re out here supporting me and care so much for me. I’d never be here on my own. It’s awesome they call get into it like that.

“It’s just a fun sport.”