At this point in the cross country season, the best of the best are pitted against each other in regional competition.
Many local teams have performed well enough to this point to still be competing, as Marietta, Warren, Fort Frye, Waterford, Belpre and Caldwell all have athletes challenging for a spot in the state meet at Hebron on November 3.
But, to get there, they will need to bring their A game to the regional meet this Saturday.
Marietta’s Mitchell Grose will be running in Saturday’s regional cross country event.
For the Dale Leeper-coached Marietta Tigers, Mitchell Grose will be the lone representative. Grose placed 16th at the district meet with a time of 17:14.71 to qualify for the regional.
Grose has managed to perform well all season, but has battled injuries.
"He's had a good year," Leeper said. "He hasn't raced in spikes yet this year. He's had an Achilles injury, which is almost impossible to keep weight off of and rest. He's been very careful with that injury. I think mentally, conditionally and talent-wise, he has an excellent shot at going to state. Barring a surprise, I think he'll get there."
Grose added "I've dealt with some adversity, but it hasn't stopped me. I've just kept training, and it's paid off."
Grose, who is looking to advance to state for the first time, realizes the importance of the race, but isn't putting too much pressure on himself.
"This is my third year going (to regionals)," Grose said. "I have the experience needed to advance. I'm treating it like it's important, but not like it's the Super Bowl or anything. I'm just excited and ready for Saturday."
The Tiger boys suffered a big loss at district when number three runner Conner Brack had to drop out due to a sprained ankle.
As a team, the girls came up just short, finishing seventh when only the top five teams advanced.
"The girls had a decent shot," Leeper said. "It became a pack race, and they were unfortunately about 10-15 spots back too far."
Overall for the young Tigers, 2012 was about gaining experience and building team chemistry.
"You measure success in many different ways," Leeper explained. "We have many things to be proud of this season. We built a lot of team chemistry. I am very excited about next year."
The Warren Warriors, led by first year head coach Debbie Proctor, saw their girls' team place fourth in the district.
Warren was led by Hannah Dugan, who finished 13th with a time of 21:09.39. Christin Howell (24th), Allyssa Kern (27th), Sydney Brague (29th), Lana Sydenstricker (31st), Maggie McCutcheon (44th) and Annie Kubala (45th) all contributed to the team's performance.
The Warren boys placed 11th in their district meet, led by Parker Blain's 33rd place finish with a time of 17:51.42.
"It's exactly how I thought it would go," Proctor said. "Being in Division I, the boys faced more of a challenge. We knew the girls would have a challenge as well. They were able to face it."
As far as the regional goes, Proctor knows her team will have to be at its best.
"It's going to be very difficult," Proctor said. "But it is doable. All of our girls will have to run PRs. It's a challenge, but it's not impossible."
In Division III, the Redskins and Cadets each put on a show at the district as the Caldwell boys and girls finished second while the Fort Frye boys and girls placed third to advance to the regional meet.
Dugan Hill's Redskins saw Tanner Harding (4th) and Jonathon Niswonger (10th) place in the top 10, while Brandon Savage (21st), Matt Zwick (25th), Calvin Parmiter (31st) and Luke Thomas (74th) all ran well. On the girls' side, Jenna Furr (6th) and Katie Saling (8th) led the way, while Lexis Waller (18th) Kaylee Saling (22nd), Hanna Muellner (30th) and Molly Saling (59th) contributed nicely.
Hill said his teams have done a good job despite battling health issues.
"Both teams ran pretty well at district," Hill said. "It's been a year full of injuries. We've had kids sick and absent from school. It's been one of those years."
Hill pointed to the team's postseason experience from last year as reason for success this season.
"We knew we had four state runners coming back," Hill said. "We expected them to be the leaders coming into this season. The goal this year was to get both teams back to state. We think they're both capable of that."
Fort Frye, led by head coach Alana Cunningham, had three boys finish in the top 15 in Jordan Anderson (6th), Jon Anderson (11th) and Matthew Cheeseman (15th). Ford McElroy (23rd), Quintin Webb (37th) and Matthew Roush (38th) also had good meets.
For the Lady Cadets, Natalie Hart finished 10th with a time of 20:18.15 to lead the team.
Fort Frye also saw Alex Medina (14th), Phoebe Thompson (21st), Hannah Willey (25th) and Tina Ward (33rd) perform well.
The Belpre Golden Eagles won their district championship, led by a second place finish from Cray Sistrunk, to advance to regionals.
Waterford's Eli Strahler claimed a district title by placing first in last week's meet with a time of 17:35.