Canfield’s Baker, Lowellville’s Yon capture Mahoning crowns; Boardman sweeps team titles

Canfield’s Baker, Lowellville’s Yon capture Mahoning crowns; Boardman sweeps team titles

Correspondent photos / Robert Hayes Canfield senior Blake Baker reacts to winning the 2023 Mahoning County Cross Country Championship. A Youngstown State commit, Baker ran a 16:31.19.

AUSTINTOWN — On an overcast afternoon, schools in Mahoning County converged to Austintown Township Park for the 2023 edition of the Mahoning County Cross Country Championships. A large slew of schools participated, with Boardman taking both varsity team honors at 32 and 34 points for the girls and boys, respectively.


Canfield senior Blake Baker calls meets prior to October the “baby stages” of the season. Keeping up with the lead park throughout the race, Baker created separation toward the latter part of the race, earning an event win at a time of 16:31.19.

Coming in second place last season, Baker, a Youngstown State commit, was looking forward to the opportunity for redemption.

“I was looking forward to this meet since last year. It was not exactly a hard course, but it’s not exactly an easy one. I just knew that I had to have a good mentality because that’s extra important on these harder courses,” Baker said. “Knew I’d have some good competition, too. David and Brock from Boardman have beat me in the past, and I knew I’d have to earn my win today.

“I was feeling pretty flat the whole race, but I had the mentality to not let (the lead pack) drop me. I was thinking about getting dropped; I didn’t like that thought sitting in my head, so I had to keep my mentality up and I was able to stay with them and make my move.”

One aspect that can make the end of the race tricky is the gravel uphill ascent to the finish line following a descent.

“It’s not too bad because you have the long grass downhill, but then you hit the gravel. It feels so much harder because your spikes don’t really get a lot of traction in the gravel, so you feel like (you’re) slipping and sliding all over the place, so that makes it hard. But once you get out, you’re on some grass and you’re home free.”

Boardman teammates Brock Farris (senior) and David D’Altorio (junior) took second and third with times of 16:37.46 and 16:37.48, keeping ahead of the pack all evening. The duo high-fived at the finish line and used the meet as prep for the Berlin Bear Dash outside of Columbus on Saturday.

“It’s a really tough course. We have a really fast race on Saturday, so we took this race a little easy so our legs don’t feel as bad on Saturday,” Farris said. “It’s nice to be able to train with (D’Altorio) and finish with him, he really helps me train a lot. We have a massive meet ahead on Saturday we’re getting ready for, and we’re going to hope we get a big PR on Saturday.

“This course really challenges you, thresholds like this, it gets our endurance up for the weekend and just stuff like this just really helps.”

D’Altorio added, “All the area schools, a lot of these guys are really good, and it’s a tough course. Austintown is not the flattest area. So it’s kind of hard on your body, but this is a really good race. Our team really tried to focus on the win, so it wasn’t really more about time, it was more about strategically placing ourselves for the win.”

“We had a really good workout on Monday. We were stride for stride with each other all the time. It’s not just for us, it’s for the whole team, our team, our top ten bounces back and forth every week. There’s a new guy on the varsity squad every week, so the team competition really helps not just the top guys, but makes the whole team better.”


Lowellville senior Sophia Yon will admit that the course in Austintown is her personal favorite, if anything for the variety of challenges the park tosses at runners. She plans on attending Purdue University to continue her track and cross country career, but eyes big goals during her senior season.

What made her victory Tuesday evening (19:55.66) even more special was the fact Yon missed last year’s race due to a broken foot that occurred the day of the event.

“This one meant just that much more. I love this course and it was my last time, so I just really was taking it all in and appreciating it,” Yon said. “It’s just beautiful, especially this time of the year. The trees are so pretty; we get to spend a lot of time in the woods which is nice. The weather is always nice, it’s overcast, good temperature, so you don’t have to struggle with any of that kind of stuff.

“There’s no big hills or stuff, so the terrain is kinda nice, you get to just focus on your race and your running rather than the course.”

Runners began in an open field, then had to trek around a baseball field before trotting through the woods and past a pond and then a band shell at the park. Yon built a lead early in the race, pacing herself throughout the three laps and knowing that a miscue could potentially allow second-place finisher Gabby Vennetti to gain pace.

“Going out it’s always nice to have people with you to kind of get your feet under you and get going, and then you just have to try and focus on keeping yourself moving at that same pace. It’s tricky, and that’s definitely the hardest part for me mentally is trying not to slow down,” Yon said. “Having someone behind me, especially a great runner like Gabby, who I know if I slow down, she will pass me, it just keeps me responsible for that. It holds me accountable for my pace.”

Vennetti, a junior from Boardman, clocked a 20:21.39 and was the defending meet champion.

“In your mind, it’s, ‘Oh, I have three laps.’ This course is more contained. It’s in one area, so you have to do two of the same laps, and then an extra one, so that definitely is difficult along with the hills because there’s a lot of little hills that you don’t realize,” Vennetti said. “That also helps you because you can speed down and get momentum to go up them.

“When you go in the woods there’s no fans, so it’s just you and the people running, so you’re just trying to keep that same pace, maybe pick it up a little since you’re on gravel and it’s less hilly, and use that to push you through the rest of the race.”

Full results are available on timingcrew.com



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