Maplewood boys, McDonald girls favored in county cross country meet

Tuesday’s Trumbull County cross country meet might be a Northeastern Athletic Conference dominated meet, but not in the way you might think.

Yes, Maplewood’s boys, the two-time Division III state cross country champions, are the team to beat and the three-time defending champions.

The usual suspects should roll again, but not without a good run from Howland, which is making strides to be a force in Division I this season.

But a state champion is a state champion. That’s the Rockets. They might be still progressing toward their goals, but Maplewood is the team to beat – especially at Tuesday’s meet at Brookfield High School. The course, which goes up a grassy surface with three tiers, is still a tight, winding course, but one that should produce some fast times.

The varsity boys race starts at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity girls beginning at 6 p.m. The make-up date is Wednesday. The junior high races are at 4:30 p.m. (boys) and 5 p.m. (girls). Chip timing will be used for this race.

Jake Hall, Ethan Sparks and Nick Cowger are names to watch for Maplewood, while CJ Seitz and Carson Fortune lead McDonald, a team which always factors in this race.

Look for Vincent Mauri, Tyler Harigan and Ethan Neff to give chase for Howland.

However, depending on whether or not he’s fully healed from a recent knee injury, Mathews senior Kenny Wallace should be the individual favorite on the boys side. He won this year’s Billy Goat Challenge in late August and has had a great start to his season.

Wallace toggles his time between playing soccer for the Mustangs and cross country, even though his forte is distance running. Wallace, a center-midfielder, is Mathews’ leading soccer scorer.

If he races and wins Tuesday, Wallace would be the first-ever Mustangs runner to win the county title.

He isn’t the only high-powered NAC runner.

There’s Badger freshman phenom Miranda Stanhope, who was ranked fifth in the state in Division III after Tuesday’s win at the Suburban League Championships in Canfield. She clocked an 18:43.5, her career best for a 5K. Considering she’s converting from a 2-mile race at the junior high level to a 3.1 jaunt in high school, it’s amazing how she’s made the transition.

She’ll once again go head-to-head against McDonald junior Malina Mitchell, who has won the last two Trumbull County titles. The Blue Devils captured the last four team titles and seem well on their way to winning their fifth consecutive crown, led by Mitchell.

Her freshman teammate Anna Guerra, who has clocked some good times this season and had a handful of top-10 finishes, should finish behind the pairing of Mitchell and Stanhope.

If she keeps improving, Stanhope seems on track for her own top 10 finish – this one at the state meet on the first Saturday in November.

Tuesday, she could be the first Braves runner to win the county title since Samantha Bonar did so in 2003 and ’04.

However, she’ll have to out-kick Mitchell to claim first as she did in Canfield. There, Stanhope won the Suburban League title, stopping the streak of four straight by Mitchell, dating back to her seventh-grade run at that race.

Lakeview’s girls seem like the likely suspect to finish second to McDonald after taking third at the Suburban.

As for the NAC, it should have three county winners from Mathews, Badger, and, yes, Maplewood.