Another loaded field will highlight the 2019 edition of the NWOAL league cross country meet this week on Saturday.
Teams will converge on Bryan City Park to settle the question of who will be number one again this season.
The Liberty Center boys and Archbold girls took home the hardware a year ago and will likely be in the mix again this time.
“The NWOAL is by far one of the toughest leagues in the state of Ohio,” explained LC coach Tim Atkinson. “It has a very rich tradition of producing some of the best runners at the state level. The past several years the league has had at least two teams ranked in the top 10 at the state championships. Last year on the girls side Archbold finished third and LC fifth at the state championships in D-III. This year will be no different on both the boys and girls side. I expect the competition to be very tough as usual.”
A number of talented athletes return for the boys event including third-place finisher from a year ago, Braden Vernot (Jr.) of Wauseon. Other boys to watch in the race include: Josh Taylor (So., sixth) from Bryan, Nathaniel Elieff (Jr., seventh) and Cole Walbolt (Sr., eighth) of Liberty Center, Auggie Tipping (Sr., ninth) of Evergreen and Brett Sugg (Sr., 11th) of Patrick Henry.
The Tigers, Indians, Golden Bears and Bluestreaks will likely be in the mix for a team title when all the jostling begins on Saturday.
Much like the boys, Wauseon, Liberty Center and Archbold will likely be in the hunt on the girls side.
Hope Oelkrug (So.) of Liberty Center and Kylie Sauder (Jr.) of Archbold return after finishing one and two in last year’s race and figure to be in the front pack again.
Other girls that could have a shot at a top ten finish include: Magdalena Duden (So., sixth) of Wauseon, Audrey Zimmerman (Sr., seventh) and Addie Oberlin (Jr., ninth) of Bryan, Sydney Miller (Jr., 10th) of Liberty Center and Karley Ramirez (So., eighth) and Sophie Rupp (Fr.) of Archbold.
“We need to have a quick start and really focus on packing up front,” explained Atkinson of his boys and girls. “A team’s pack time is going to be very important in both races, as I feel there are several teams that have a shot at winning the team title.”
The Liberty Center girls are currently ranked fourth in the latest D-III cross country poll while Archbold sits at eighth. On the boys side, the Tigers are currently 17th in D-III.
The Liberty Center boys and Archbold girls will both be gunning for their third-straight NWOAL crown when the event commences on Saturday at 10 a.m.
The postseason of cross country will officially kickoff this weekend with the annual league meets for athletes in the Northern Lakes League and the Northwest Conference at two sites on Saturday.
The NLL will converge on Whiteford Valley Golf Course in Ottawa Lake, Mich. to battle for first place.
The Sylvania Northview boys and Perrysburg girls triumphed a year ago and should be in the mix again this time around.
The Napoleon boys took sixth in 2018 and are hoping to better that mark thanks to two standouts returning.
Daniel Gaffney (Sr.) finished 12th a year ago for the Wildcats while teammate Ryan Otto (So.) crossed the line in 14th.
In the girls race, Napoleon took fourth and could play a role as Macee Dilbone (Sr.) who finished 15th and Rebekah Zachrich (So.) who took 24th return as the leaders again this year.
Meanwhile in Van Wert, the Columbus Grove boys and girls are hoping to replicate what they did a season ago by sweeping the annual Northwest Conference championships.
The Bulldogs had four runners in the top ten on the boys side including Johnny Schmiedebush (Sr., second), Caleb Stechschulte (So., fifth), Breece Pingle (Sr., ninth) and Carson Clossan (So., 10th).
Kayden Sarver (Jr.) of Paulding will look to lead his pack to a strong finish this year.
For the girls, Columbus Grove bring back three top ten runners including Alyssa Ellerbrock (Sr., first), Erin Downing (So., fourth) and Leanndra Price (Jr., sixth).
The Panther took fourth as a team led by Elyse Manz (Jr.) who finished 11th in the race and returns for another this season.
The Bulldog boys are currently ranked seventh in the state while the girls sit at fifth with one first place vote in D-III.
The NWC race will be at the Van Wert Reservoir on Saturday and will commence at 9 a.m. as will the NLL event.