Meadville’s boys cross country team didn’t really know how well it was going to do this season, first-time runner Zac Ross said at the District 10 cross country championships last weekend.

The Bulldogs had to figure that out on the fly.

Soon enough the regular season was over and the ’Dogs were still undefeated.

Not bad for not knowing how good they were.

Meadville went on to capture the team title and three of the top four individual spots at the Region 2 meet two weeks ago.

That was only a tune-up for what came last weekend when the Bulldogs proved their dominance by winning the Class AAA District 10 team title at the district championships.

Now, today, the ’Dogs have the opportunity to prove how good they are at the state level when they compete in the PIAA championships at Hershey.

“I really would like to see us in the top 10 (as a team),” said Meadville coach Chuck Jones, noting that a few teams from the eastern part of the state have traditionally been very good. “If things go well I think that’s possible. I would like to see one of our top three (runners) in the top 25 area.”

The Class AAA boys race begins at 10 a.m. today at Hershey Park’s White Field. Twenty-four teams from across Pennsylvania will compete with just under 300 individual runners.

“We’re running well,” Jones said. “It’s just the unknown. We have three front-runners that are all pretty good. All three are capable of placing in the top 50 overall, which would be great.

“The unknown is really how our four, five and six guys are going to do.”

Jones praised his Nos. 4 and 5 runners — Clark Peterson and Mark Geiger — after the District 10 championships last Saturday, saying “we got a tremendous effort out of our Nos. 4 and 5. Clark Peterson and Mark Geiger gave us a much better effort than we even expected, and really, I think the key to that victory is what they did for us.”

Peterson finished 11th overall at districts in 18:10 while Geiger was 12th in 18:16. Ross was second overall in 17:21 while Joe Amato (17:40) and Andrew Geist (17:55) were fifth and seventh, respectively.

Amato, a senior, will make his third appearance at the state meet today. He is, however, the only Bulldog with state experience. In 2004, Amato finished 120th in 17:35.

“The state experience is certainly always a new one,” Jones said. “But we’ve been exposed to some of those very big fields during the season. If you can convince them that it’s just another meet with a little better quality, then I think you’ve come a long way.

“It’s been a great season, and we’re running well when we hoped to be running well — at the end,” said Jones.

Jones, who was a runner on Meadville’s last District 10 championship team in 1970, has tried to prepare his team for the course they will be running, which includes a fairly steep hill and curve about half-a-mile into the course.

The trick with taking the curve, Jones said, is to not get caught in the wash of bodies that will be slowing down to make the curve.

The Bulldogs also need to be mentally prepared for a race that can intimidate even the best runners.

“If you can convince them that it’s just another meet with a little better quality, then I think you’ve come a long way,” he said.

The intimidation factor shouldn’t hurt the Bulldogs, Ross said.

“There is no intimidation,” said Ross. “I know that might sound cocky, but if you’re intimidated, you probably shouldn’t be there. It’s being with the best of the best. It’s exciting.”

And no matter how the points shake out today, Meadville has enjoyed a great run in 2005, and 2006 looks promising, too.

“This year, we’re just going to go out and test the waters (at the state championships),” Ross said last Saturday. “Just see how we can do.”

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