McDonald’s roads to state never given

Freshly-cut grass. Remnants of what was a couple weeks ago in the Canfield Fair. The unmistakable smell of french fries emanating from a vendor, wheeled near the hub of today’s Suburban League Championships at the Canfield Fairgrounds.

They are all staples of the yearly run where distance athletes; mainly from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties gather to compete on a course spanning the grassy parking area of the Fairgrounds.

That grouping includes the McDonald Blue Devils. The boys and girls cross country teams have been lurking since the season began in late August, but it wasn’t until Saturday’s Spartan Invitational the two made their marks on the 2018 season.

The girls team lost arguably one of the best runners to come through the hallowed halls of McDonald in Malina Mitchell, who is a freshman at West Virginia University and training on the hills surrounding picturesque Morgantown, W. Va.

McDonald has a junior-laden team led by Anna Guerra, who is the team’s No. 1 runner. Sela Jones, Janessa Martinelli, Bella Wolford and Sophie Klase, along with freshman Chloe Dean and sophomore Katie Gardner, comprised the Blue Devils top seven on Saturday as McDonald finished a close third behind Williamstown (102 points) and Gilmour Academy (107) in the Spartan Invitational Division III girls race with 32 teams competing. McDonald had 109 points.

Poland and Howland plan to challenge the Blue Devils today in Canfield. Today’s race starting at 5:20 p.m., is just a building block for this McDonald team.

The Trumbull County Meet at Badger High School follows next Tuesday, followed by The Legends on Oct. 6 at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds. The Division III District Meet is Oct. 20 back at the Trumbull County Fairgrounds, while Oct. 27 is the Division III Regional Meet in Boardman. The state cross country meet is Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.

Getting to Hebron is always this team’s goal, and Saturday’s performance was a step in that direction.

McDonald’s boys took second to Gilmour Academy in the Spartan Invitational Division III boys race, 77 to 92, but it showed these Blue Devils’ consistency. Which, if you’re running this time of the year, is what you expect at this point in the season. Times will drop in the next month leading to district competition.

Sophomore Brody Rupe led the way, as he’s done all year by running a 17:31.9, followed by junior Connor Symbolik (17:46.5).

Seniors Elliot Gibbons and Carson Fortune, junior Zack Canada, sophomore Eli Street and freshman Brian Fisher were the rest of the top seven at Boardman. No one ran higher than 19:40.3, which shows the pack mentality is developing as these Blue Devils look for their second straight Suburban League title today, starting at 4:45 p.m.

McDonald’s boys and girls follow the same path, make it to state. Some might think that is a given in McDonald, but nothing would be further from the truth.