Entering his third season leading the Newcomerstown High cross country program, Coach Mario Lovrinic has a main goal in mind for his runners this season: All business.
Expectations are high at NHS, coming off a successful campaign a year ago which saw the Trojans qualify for the Division III Regional with a fourth place finish at the district meet, and they also captured third place in the Inter-Valley Conference.
"My main emphasis for this season for my runners is "All Business"," Lovrinic said. "We have made great strides the past few years and last season was a high point for our program. We finished fourth in the districts and qualified for our third trip to regionals in school history. We also finished third in the IVC behind Garaway and Sandy Valley who both made it to regionals.
"The kids know in order to reach that next level we need to be all business this year," Lovrinic said. "We need to compete and train at a higher level this year, and I'm confident they are ready for the challenge."
A total of 11 boys are out for the team this season, including three lettermen returning for the Orange and Black in juniors Nate Marinucci, Daniel Lovrinic and David Billings.
Marinucci, who was a regional qualifier last season along with reeling in first team All-Eastern District and second team all-IVC is expected to lead the way for the Trojans.
"Nate had a real solid year last season for us," Lovrinic said. "He has been training hard all summer and is ready to run with the best in the area, It's reassuring to have Nate as the 'horse' of the team, knowing we can lean on him to place high in meets and set the pace."
Lovrinic also has high hopes for his other two returning lettermen.
"Daniel and David are also returning lettermen who are ready to step up and be a steady punch for us," Lovrinic said. "They will be a key part of us being a successful team this year."
Lovrinic also has high hopes for a pair of wild cards in junior newcomers Derek Stamets and Josh Green.
"Derek and Josh are the team wild cards," Lovrinic said. "Derek had a great track season as a miler, using cross country as a gateway to another solid track season. Once he gets accustomed to the 5K realm of running, he will be a nice addition to the team.
"Josh is returning from a heel injury last season," the NHS continued. "He has surprised me the most out of all the runners we have. I didn't know what to expect knowing he still favors his foot, but he has looked great the past few weeks. The big 'if' is if he can stay healthy. If he does, he could be the piece we have been missing the last few years."
Rounding the NHS boys' squad are senior Ryan Williams; juniors Nash Kissel, Garret McDonald; sophomore Josh Patterson and freshmen Mason Walkup and Justin Green.
Newcomerstown will have a pair of girls running this fall in senior Amanda Perkins and McKaila Goodwin, who each earned letters last season.
"Both Amanda and McKaila are accustomed to running as individuals without a team," Lovrinic said, "but that hasn't stopped them from training hard this summer. They are real anxious to get started. Both had successful track seasons which will help them this fall. They want to finish their high school careers off on a good note and they are off to a good start so far."
Lovrinic is happy with the state of the NHS program and is looking forward to continuing to build on the momentum.
"With 11 kids out, the program is at a stage it hasn't been at for over 25 years," Lovrinic said. "The team has plenty of support from the administration and the community, which gives the team extra motivation. I see the camaraderie and chemistry this team has, which will help when the road gets tough."