No sure bets for this year’s county XC meet

Tuesday isn’t your typical 3.1-mile trek. It’s a gathering place. All roads in Trumbull County lead to Maplewood High School’s cross country course in Mecca, off state Route 88.

If you’re a cross country runner, know one or are a former distance runner yourself, and your GPS isn’t directing you to the pride lands of Mecca – home of the Rockets boys cross country team that has won five state championships (dating back to 1972 when Maplewood won the then Class A state title), your handheld device is defective.

Tuesday’s girls race starting at 4:30 p.m. and the boys race beginning at 5:05 p.m. are sure to be some of the best in recent memory.

Take the layout of the Maplewood course. There isn’t a true straightaway, but plenty of zigs, zags and turns. It serves as a precursor for the county race.

The host Rockets are the top-ranked Division III boys team in the state and is the favorite to win the county title. However, like Lee Corso says on ESPN’s College GameDay, “Not so fast, my friend.”

McDonald, a team which has won six state titles in its history and is the third-ranked D-III team in the state, has won the last seven county meets. Maplewood last captured the team title in 2005, ironically the last time the Rockets won the Division III state championship.

That said, Howland has also won its fair share of meets this season and is just as deep as Maplewood and McDonald making it a three-team race for the boys title.

McDonald’s Patrick Kunkel, who is a freshman at the University of San Francisco, won the last three boys individual titles.

Kunkel’s former teammate, Bobby Johnson, is one of the favorites, along with Howland’s Ryan Sullivan. Sullivan edged Johnson for last Tuesday’s Suburban League title. However, Johnson won the Maplewood Invitational title earlier this season on the same course used for county this Tuesday.

Maplewood’s Tristan Dahmen, Solomon Yoder and Derek Morrison, along with Mineral Ridge’s Logan Smith and Lakeview’s Chris Edie will push the lead duo.

This is what we call a “pick ’em,” making for an interesting boys race from beginning to end.

On the girls side, Maplewood and McDonald have toggled back and forth as the team champions over the years with Lakeview breaking through in 1994.

Last year, McDonald edged out Howland’s girls for the county title, but Howland’s Morgan Buckley (2011) and Craigo (2012) have taken the last two individual crowns.

You don’t have to have 2 to 1 odds to know the Tigers want their first county title.

McDonald’s Heidi Hoffman and Rachel Perry, along with Howland’s Craigo, Buckley and Hailey Dieter, and Girard’s Dominique Hall all can win.

At the Maplewood Invitational, Hoffman edged out Hall for the title.

Is Tuesday going to be full of drama? You bet. Nothing will be decided until the final half mile, or even closer.