By Ed Farrell
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
MERCER COUNTY AREA —
While the Region 1-2 races no longer decide Mercer County’s cross country championships, they still provide a competitive tune-up for the race that really matters — the annual District 10 Championships.
Saturday morning in Stoneboro the county contingent will converge on Lakeview High in a final dress rehersal in the renamed Mercer County Invitational.
The varsity girls’ race will begin at 9 a.m., followed in 30-to-45-minute increments by varsity boys’ and junior varsity and junior high races, Lakeview coach and meet director Glenn Dosch said.
Buhl Farm Park will serve as the venue for the annual district-wide races — the qualifier for the PIAA Championships — on Oct. 26.
“Our program is in what we call the ‘sunrise stage’ — not ‘sunset.’ We’re on the up-and-coming side of things,” Dosch said, adding, “We’re happy to have (the race). We have a phenomenal group of parents who will help us put on a good meet.”
The Region 2 champion Hickory Lady Hornets (6-0) are harboring hopes of defending their crown. Hickory harvested a 25-73 win over Greenville a year ago at Pymatuning Lake.
“This has turned into a good prep for the district race,” Hickory veteran mentor Tony Mastrian mused. “We did win it (in 2012) and it really did prepare us to get ready for the biggest race of the season.
“We’ve been priming for it,” Mastrian continued. “It’s a very, very important time of the season to have a race like this because it brings out the quality in all the teams, and we have a rich tradition here in Mercer County.”
Defending region champion Lexi Bible is joined by teammates Jackie Abraham, Haley Boyd and Bailey and Paige Brown. Last year Bible, Abraham and Boyd placed 1-2-3. Greenville’s Maddie Thrasher and Nanami Mano, Sharpsville’s Maddie Przicina, and Wilmington’s Rikki Brumbaugh, Allison Baldwin, Kate Robb and Hannah Drake all return from top-10 berths, while Sharon’s Xsila Powell placed 13th last year.
West Middlesex’s girls (8-0) won the Region 1 regular-season crown for the 8th time in 9 years under veteran mentor Bob Morris.
Chloé Tyillian, Allyson Pierce, Anna and Helena Zrile, Sophia Kachulis and Jordan Aubel lead the Ms. Reds, who stood 6th in a 14-school field in 2012.
Hickory’s boys completed a 2012 sweep by edging Commodore Perry, 42-74, although Perry’s Nathan White won the individual crown.
Logan Griffen garnered 3rd last year for Hickory, and will be bolstered by returning teammates Kyle Boyd and Justin Walter. Other returning standouts include Greenville’s Dylan Foley, Wilmington’s Calvin Gealy, and Jamestown’s Christian McElhaney.
Last fall perennial power Grove City boys did not enter their top unit in the 14-school region race, but Coach Mike Sample’s Eagles still finished 4th. John-Paul Depew and Tom Somora were the top 2012 placewinners for Grove City.
Perhaps speaking on behalf of his coaching counterparts, Mastrian reported Hickory is healthy and peaking at the opportune time.
“I hope so,” Mastrian mused, adding, “It’s a good time of the season to have good health.”
Notes: Dosch said RunnersHigh will provide the timing service. ... tentatively, the varsity boys’ race will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by JV girls and boys, 10:15; junior high girls, 11; and junior high boys, 11:30. An elementary school race is set for noon. ... Lakeview High band/chorus will commence the competition with The National Anthem.