Legendary figures at fairgrounds

Life at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds – for cross country teams like Maplewood and McDonald, it means three straight weeks at the flatlands in Bazetta.

It starts with Saturday’s The Legends meet, followed by the Sim Earich Invitational on Oct. 12 and districts on Oct. 19.

Saturday’s The Legends Meet begins bright and early. OK, it’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. There’s nothing like starting your day with a 3.1-mile run among friends. In this case, it’s the 2013 Ohio Alumni State Cross Country Championships. It’s a great way for running alumni to get together. I can safely say Bruce Springsteen won’t be playing one of his many hit tunes “Glory Days,” but rest assured alumni of any Ohio high school can re-live their high school years during the race.

After a couple of junior high and Division III races, this year’s legends will be introduced. This year, the legends are some of the most elite to ever come out of northeast Ohio – Bridget Franek and Bob Lunn.

Franek, who ran in the 2012 Olympics, competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Franek is one of the youngest legends to come through the Trumbull County Fairgrounds, but is very familiar with the course since her high school team usually ran districts there. At Crestwood High School, she captured the 2005 Division II girls individual cross country title after finishing second in 2004.

But her biggest prep accomplishment came at the state track and field meet her senior year (2006). She began the two-day event by leading her 4×800 relay to a state title on that Friday. The following day, she accomplished a rare feat – winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 all in one day. Maybe that’s why Franek went to Penn State after graduating from Crestwood – a high school that has her jersey retired inside the gym.

The other legend was a standout in his own right – 1974 Austintown Fitch High School graduate Bob Lunn. In his junior year, Lunn won the Class AAA state cross country individual title – leading the Falcons to their second straight team championship.

Fitch’s teams of the 1970s were some of the greatest in state history. Fitch, who was coached by legendary mentor Mike Garcia, had two state runners-up and two state titles from 1970 to 1975.

In the spring of that year, Lunn captured the 2-mile state title in track and field.

After a successful stint at Bowling Green State University, Lunn headed to Colorado and became a member of the Frank Shorter Racing team.

Following Lunn and Franek being introduced, the boys and girls Division II then I races will take place.

It will all take place at The Legends Meet where the goals, found on gopherarun.com, are: Offering the athletes a fast, accurate course with good competition and awards; honoring the legends of the sport who will be presenting awards to the athletes; and providing athletes a link to Ohio’s great history in cross country by meeting The Legends.