For a variety of reasons, Stow-Munroe Falls girls cross country has yet to run a race at full strength this year.
If and when the Bulldogs do get to full strength, there's some serious potential for good things to happen.
Despite the absence of lead runner Sophia Perez, Stow still managed to grab a fourth-place finish Sept. 24 at the Todd Clark Invitational at Cloverleaf.
Stow finished with 141 points, trailing only champion Shaker Heights (63 points), Massillon Jackson (88) and Gilmour Academy (126).
Meanwhile, the Stow boys finished ninth out of 22 teams in the field with 255 points. Brecksville won the boys team title with 77 points.
Stow coach John Roseman said Perez' absence due to an ankle injury hurt, but not too much.
"We would have been in the hunt [for the team title]," Roseman said. "She went to the trainer on Monday. We have her in a brace right now. She had worked out all week just fine. Even if she's not No. 1 for us, it makes a huge difference."
Roseman said a good sign from Cloverleaf was that the Bulldogs beat both Walsh Jesuit and North Canton Hoover without Perez, noting those teams Stow needed to beat to reach states.
"It was a good weekend. The varsity runners pretty much had ideal weather," Roseman said. "Cloverleaf is faster than it used to be. We've had some pretty good times there. I would not say it's faster than Boardman."
With Perez out, the rest of Stow's pack stepped up.
Sophomore Mackenzie Cassiday just missed breaking the 20-minute barrier for the first time in her career. She finished in seventh place in 20:06.34.
"I think she's within a tenth of a second of her PR [personal record]," Roseman said. "She's been our No. 1. I'd have liked to have seen her in the 19s by now, but I think she will be there by the end of the season."
Another good sign for Stow: Junior Tessa Pitcovich looks to be getting back in form. Pitcovich just missed her first top-10 finish of the season, taking 11th place in 20:16.82.
"It's something different every season, She's been working hard," Roseman said. "She's a competitor. When it's go time, she's going to be there. When she gets to what I call the championship part of the season, she kicks it up a notch."
Freshman Jocelyn Shatraw continues to shave time as well, as she finished 19th in 20:46.39.
"She's been pretty consistent for us," Roseman said. "That might have been one of her better races."
Senior Kayla Valente (51st, 21:30.74) and junior Shelby Gluth (53rd, 21:39.98) rounded out the scoring runs for Stow.
Emily Wisniewski (62nd, 21:54.22), senior Annaleigh Koch (83rd, 22:27.56), Kamryn Drach (93rd, 22:34.55) and Megan Shelley (111th, 22:56.83) also ran the varsity race at Cloverleaf.
For the Stow boys, it was another up-and-down day.
Senior Jonathan Holtz just missed at top-10 finish, taking 11th place in 16:57.12.
"I think he's kind of struggling mentally right now," Roseman said. " He came through the mile mark and he was leading that race. I think he's better than that."
Cole Shawala continues to run well, as he took 35th place in 17:32.87, while Patrick Bunnell finished 51st in 17:51.31.
"Cole was really close to his overall PR," said Roseman. "Patrick ran very well."
Jason Anzaldi (80th, 18:25.68) and Mathew Duffy (100th, 18:41.15) rounded out the scoring runs for Stow.
Patrick Kline (110th, 18:53.55), Ben Johnson-Bowers (115th, 18:59.15), Matthew Rohde (123rd, 19:11.62), Connor Jenkins (147th, 19:47.16) and Drew Decker (149th, 19:50.31) as ran the varsity race for Stow.
"We had some good times in there," Roseman said. "I just think that's where we're at right now."
Roseman was set to take a select group to Rochester, N.Y., for the McQuaid Invitational Oct. 1, but results were not available at press time.
Up next, the Bulldogs will host the Stow Bulldog Invitational Oct. 8 at Silver Springs Park. Girls varsity race is set for 9 a.m.