In the past several years alone, names such as Emily Mars of Field, Paul Vincent of Garfield, and Erin Anderson of Kent Roosevelt have become synonymous with excellence. This year will be no different, as area runners will take center stage at the 2000 State Cross Country Championships at Scioto Downs in Columbus on Saturday.
Two full teams _ the Kent Roosevelt girls in Division I and the Southeast girls in Division II _ qualified for the state meet. A host of area individuals will also compete. Seth Hutchinson of Field, Kara Wilson of Mogadore, Colin Ricks of Garfield, Erin McCauley of Stow, Mike Capriolo and Ann Marie Doroba of Woodridge, and Amanda Chinn of Ravenna will also have a chance for glory at the state meet.
The Pirates bought their ticket to the state meet for the second straight season by pulling fourth place out of their hats at the Boardman regional.
Last season the Pirates finished 13th in the state with one senior on the roster. This year Southeast has two seniors and is looking to improve on its standing.
"I would say we are trying to do better than last year," said Southeast coach Becky Dunn. "I think we are a top 10-caliber team. Plus we will bring five kids back next year."
Leading the way for the Pirates will be senior Susan Graves. A two-time All-Ohio and four-time All-Portage County League selection, Graves is looking to get back into the medal business this season after missing the All-Ohio team a year ago.
"She knows what it takes and her goal is to be All-Ohio," said Dunn. "Last year she didn't get off fast enough and got boxed in."
The Mahaffey twins _ Justine and Jamie _ also have a decent shot at making the All-Ohio team but will have their work cut out for them. Their sister, senior Stephani Mahaffey, will also have to beat the odds, but that is something she is familiar with.
Stephani was not even ranked as the top 800-meter runner for her school, but turned on the jets at the PCL meet and finished first in the event last spring.
"The twins would have to have their best day of the year to make All-Ohio, but it is not out of reach," said Dunn. "Stephani has learned that you can do the impossible."
Rounding out the Southeast team will be a pair of runners who don't only excel on the course. Raina Keppler (3.93 grade-point average) and Bevin Kertoy (3.69) have already been honored by the state, as they were named academic All-Ohio.
Kent Roosevelt also returns to the state tournament and will be working to improve its standing as well. The Rough Riders looked impressive at the regional meet, as they finished third as a team in the Division I race.
Kelly Felter will lead the charge for Roosevelt, as she has been impressive all season long. Felter finished second in the Western Reserve Conference meet and repeated that finish at the regional meet. Joining Felter will be Jodi Hensel, who has also looked sharp, finishing 12th at last weekend's regional meet.
As an individual, Colin Ricks is no stranger to the state meet. Ricks, a senior, qualified for the third time this year as he finished seventh overall in the boys Division III race. He is the first Garfield runner to ever qualify three times for the state meet.
"Colin had his work cut out for him at the regional. There was a lot of good competition, but he is a fighter," said Garfield coach John Bennett. "It would be nice to see him finish in the top 10, and he can do it."
While Ricks may be a veteran at the state meet, Kara Wilson is just a rookie. The Mogadore senior is the first girl to qualify from her school, and broke the school record when she finished 12th at the regional meet.
"I just wanted to be in the top 15 (at regionals), and I knew I could do it if I just worked hard," said Wilson. "I am ecstatic. We have never had a girl from Mogadore make it."
Wilson will not be the only rookie at the state meet, as she will be joined by Ravenna freshman sensation Amanda Chinn. The young Raven has turned heads, as she finished in the top spot at the WRC meet then followed that performance with fifth-place finishes at both the district and regional meets.
Stow senior Erin McCauley will also be at the state meet, as she qualified with a sixth-place finish at the regional.
Ann Marie Doroba of Woodridge and her teammate Mike Capriolo will be making their first appearance at the state meet. Doroba is just a sophomore, but already has experience as she qualified for the state meet in track and field last season.
Capriolo was crowned the PCL champion, as he finished in the top spot at the league meet and led his Bulldogs to an unbeaten season and the PCL team title.
Field High School has become somewhat of an institution in the past several years at the state meet. This season the Falcons will not be there as a team, but will be represented in the form of Seth Hutchinson. The talented senior battled injuries all year long but is back in top form, getting stronger each and every race.