EAST PALESTINE - Salem and United expect to be running out front at the 111th annual Columbiana County Track and Field Meet today.
"I think we're ready to go," Salem girls coach Amie Cochran said. "It's going to be a close meet against us and United again this year."
The Salem and United girls have finished in the top two the last nine years and will battle it out again this afternoon at East Palestine's Reid Stadium.
The Salem boys have won five straight county titles and nine of the last 10.
"Thursday before we left practice we went over some of the scenarios and where the points lie," Salem boys coach Todd Huda said. "We don't have to motivate them for the county."
The county meet gets under way at 4:30 p.m. today with the boys discus and high jump and girls shot put and long jump along with the running preliminaries.
"United is really strong and has kids who will take a lot of first places," Huda said. "I guess us, United and East Liverpool will be pretty close."
Salem is blessed with a strong group of sprinters. The Quakers have four of the top five quarter-milers in the county so far this season.
Senior Haedan Panezott is the defending champion in the 100-meter dash, while senior Caleb Quinn has won county titles in the 110 hurdles the last two years.
Salem raced at United in the rain on April 25 along with partial teams from West Branch and South Range.
United outscored Salem, 82-67, as the Quakers ran all but one of their regulars.
"(Daniel) Rumsey was sick that day," Huda said. "We ran a couple of things differently to get ready for what is coming."
The Eagles feature one of the county's top athletes, junior Riley Fillman, who won the 300 hurdles and lone jump last year.
"Fillman is good. I really enjoy watching him run," Huda said. "Their sprinters are strong and they have a great thrower (Luke Cooper)."
East Liverpool, led by defending county 400 dash champion Zack English, is expected to finish in the top three in the team standings.
Cochran has been crunching the numbers to see how close it will be between Salem and United.
"I'm focused on every single of (the events) ... trying to score some points," she said. "It always comes down to two placers in every event at the county meet."
The Quakers understand every point counts as they try to defend their county title.
"They absolutely do," Cochran said. "We preach that every year. That is what wins the meet.
"I really think it's going to come down to those second placers."
Senior Megan Lehwald set a school record in winning the long jump last year and teamed with Marissa Swindell, Julia Dundon and Hannah Texter on the first-place 800 relay team. All are back for a repeat performance.
"The sprint side is our huge strength and the long jump has been strong," Cochran said.
The United girls are led by senior Allison Parks, who won four county titles last year. She has the county's top times in the 800, 1600 and 3200 runs this year and the second fastest in the 400 dash.
Parks has won the 800 run at the county meet the past three years.
"United's strong in all areas this year," Cochran said.
If it comes down to the last event, the Quakers have posted the county's top time in the 1600 relay.
"I hope everyone goes 100 percent," Cochran said. "If they do, the numbers will fall where they fall."
Wellsville senior Shartece Taylor is racing toward the record book as she seeks four straight county titles in the 100 dash and 400 relay. Taylor was the state runner-up in the Division III 100 dash last year.
Columbiana junior Shayla Ray won the girls 100 hurdles the last two years and the high jump last year.
With all of Salem's sprinters, which race is Huda waiting to see?
"The mile and two mile," he said. "Our kids have come such a long way in a year. I think we'll be able to score some points, which we didn't do last year."
Some of the times have dropped dramatically in the past week as the weather got better.
"The training programs are designed to do that, so I'm not surprised," Cochran said. "It happens every year. I think we'll see a lot of good times from everyone because the weather is supposed to be nice."
"It's supposed to be pretty nice Tuesday, so a lot of people will have PRs (personal records)," Huda said.
The top eight finishers will receive points on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
This will be the 46th time East Palestine has hosted the boys meet.
The Columbiana County Track and Field Meet is the oldest continuous county meet in Ohio, being held every year since 1904.