NAVARRE - The annual trip to Stark County to Fairless High School for the Division III regional meet proved once again to be one of the toughest tests in Ohio prep track and field.
How tough you ask?
The immediate area will send just four boys in five events and the girls will be represented only in five events by just two schools when the state meet opens Friday morning at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus on the campus of The Ohio State University.
However, the Steubenville Catholic Central girls will send the areas strongest and deepest delegation. When you combine strength and depth at the regional track meet, it usually results in a trophy.
Such was the case again as Coach Rob Copelands squad - just two seasons removed from winning the Division III state championship - tallied 46 points, which was 7.5 fewer than perennial regional and state power Gates Mills Gilmour Academy.
The Lady Crusaders set the tone for making a run toward the silver trophy during Wednesdays action when Moriah Vosteen posted 10 points in the high jump, clearing 5-2 victory.
They didnt stop winning events there.
During the course of the last decade, Steubenville Centrals relays are seemingly always in the thick of the chase in Columbus.
Dont expect that to change this week. Seeded first in the 4x2, the team of Michaela Gotta, Monica Rigaud, Kara Kakascik and Taylor Zapolnik ran away from the field once again, posting an impressive 1:45.63 to win the gold.
A short-time later, the same foursome came back for the 4x1. The Lady Crusaders just squeezed into the final on Wednesday, posting the eighth best time in the field.
Thus, running out of Lane One, the Lady Crusaders continued to rise to the ocassion. The foursome executed three beautiful hand-offs and Zapolnik ran a blistering leg down the homestretch for a time of 50.18 and the gold medal.
The same quartet then ran the 4x4. They came in seeded second and thats where they finished, posting a time of 4:04.94 for the silver.
Rigaud, who finished fourth in the 100 meter high hurdles at last years state meet, will have a chance to run them again. She finished second, skimming 10 timbers in 15.35.
The only other school sending a representative if Martins Ferry.
The Lady Riders were the areas premier team basically all spring, but they found themselves just on the outside three different times.
However, the team of Sarah Applegarth, Sunshine Wrenn, Ashley Griffith and Talyr Jenkins perservered and finished fourth to earn the final qualifying spot in a time of 1:47.50 in the 800 relay.
That team went into the finals seeded seventh and ran in Lane 8.
Just missing the top four were Courtney Crolley (pole vault, tied for fifth), Tyesha Allen (100 HH, fifth) and Jenkins (100M, fifth).
St. John Central had a tough evening as well. The Lady Irish wont be represented in the state meet for the first time in several years. Freshman Jessica Alvey finished fifth in both the long jump (by a half inch) and the 400 meter dash.
Sophomore Fallon Doyle, who was an all-Ohioan last season, was fifth in the 1600 and sixth in the 800 meter run.
On the boys side, Buckeye Trail actually led the way for the immediate area with two qualifiers in three events.
The Warriors were led by a regional championship by Austin Carleton, who won the high jump Friday, clearing 6-2.
He was second in the long jump on Wednesday.
Nate Huber was third in the pole vault during Wednesdays action.
Barnesvilles Jacob Anderson got the regional monkey off his back and earned his first trip to Columbus.
Anderson is headed to the capital city in impressive fashion, too. The future West Liberty Hilltopper placed second in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles in a personal best time of 38.61.
It feels good to be going to the state, but I have to go out and practice harder now because I want to be able to get up there (on the awards stand), Anderson said. I have to continue to get my form down a little better. I was (tired) today, so I didnt think I could run that fast.
Steubenville Catholic Centrals lone representative is no stranger to the state meet.
Senior Doug Maslowski - the reigning state runnerup in the high hurdles - will have a chance to improve on that medal this week. He ran an impressive 14.23 and finished second.