With the loss of three-year runner Joe Amato and district medalist Clark Peterson to graduation, Meadville cross country coach Chuck Jones wasn’t so sure what to expect in 2006.

And when Mark Geiger announced his plans not to return as well, that question mark grew even larger.

“Losing Joe Amato was huge,” Jones said. “But losing Mark Geiger was the biggest hit we had. We could contend with Mark in the lineup. When he left, we thought we’d be okay region-wise, but not district-wise.”

But guess what? The Bulldogs are in position to win both.

On Tuesday, the Bulldogs varsity boys cross country team won its 17th straight region meet. And following a win at the Cardinal Classic on Saturday in Cochranton, the Bulldogs have easily marked themselves as one of the teams to beat in defense of their District 10 Class AAA title.

“We took a big hit (with graduation),” Jones said. “But we’ve had some younger guys step up.”

One of those runners is junior Andrew Geist, who placed seventh at the district meet a year ago. Geist won the McDowell Invitational and has finished second in six of the meet’s the Bulldogs have participated in.

Meadville’s No. 3 runner, Richard Peterson, has also added a spark, finishing third at the Cardinal Classic this past weekend.

Those two add to a talented group of seniors in Zac Ross, Sean Unice and Zac Lindeman as well as sophomore Josh Frantz and freshman Alex Flick.

“With adding Richard and the two younger runners and the improvement of the juniors and seniors, we’re in a position where we have a chance (to win districts) again,” Jones said. “The odds on favorite is Cathedral Prep, but I think we’re right there.”

Ross, the 2005 District 10 Class AAArunner-up, is having another phenomenal year for the Bulldogs. The senior has won all but two of the events he has run in this year, winning invitational titles at Sharpsville and Cochranton along the way. His only miscues came at the McDowell Invitational, where he made a wrong turn and did not complete the race, and at the Slippery Rock Invitational where he placed second to Penn Trafford’s Josh Christopher.

“He’s really become a force certainly in the western part of the state,” Jones said. “And I think, now, his name is being spread around statewide.

“He’s positioned himself to run in the top 25 at states and I know his goals are that and even higher.

“You’ve got to believe he’s the favorite in the district. But being a favorite and doing it are two different things.”

Ross and classmates Unice and Lindeman have been a big part of Meadville’s success this season.

“(Ross) and the other two seniors have done a good job preparing our young guys for the adventure of their first invitationals. Our pre-practice, I turn over to the seniors and they’re getting it done. That’s the leadership we have with that group. It’s outstanding to see.”

The Bulldogs can clinch sole possession of the Region 2 title Tuesday with a win over Oil City in the team’s regular season finale at Meadville. The title would be the second straight for the Meadville boys and third in four years.

The girls team is also looking to wrap up a solid regular season.

“Let’s not forget about the girls team,” Jones said. “The girls legitimately have a chance to win the district.

“We’re really young, but they are getting better and better every meet. It’s very encouraging.”

Either way, Meadville will be a school to keep your eyes on the next few weeks. The district meet is Oct. 28 at Buhl Park.



Lisa Byers can be reached at 724-6370, ext. 277 or by e-mail at lbyers@meadvilletribune.com.

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