It has been a forgone conclusion in recent years.

And considering their massive success, it would seem almost insignificant nowadays.

That’s not stopping the Explorers from celebrating, though. They never get tired of taking that so-called mundane first step.

Especially if it results in yet another victory.

The Hudson boys cross country team won a 14-team Division I district meet at Trumbull County Fairgrounds in Cortland. The Explorers finished with 47 points.

Solon was the runner-up with 56 points. Also qualifying were Aurora (109), Boardman (120) and Stow-Munroe Falls (147).

It was Hudson’s’ sixth consecutive district championship. Such a run remains enjoyable even if it has become almost routine.

Explorers head coach Mark McConnell certainly won’t brush it aside.

"Winning districts is special," the sixth-year Hudson head man said. "There’s a source of pride on the boys team. I’m very pleased with how the whole day went."

While the win may have been inevitable, it wasn’t a complete walkover. The defending two-time state champions had a rather formidable challenger in Solon, which will try to derail the Explorers’ train possibly two more times before the sun sets on the cross country season.

"Solon is a top-five ranked team," McConnell said. "Since there were so few teams, it was really a dual meet between us and Solon. There were also some very good individuals from other schools. We’re looking forward to getting another crack at them [the Comets]."

Boardman’s Mitchel Dunham won the 102-member race with a time of 15 minutes, 53.25 seconds. Dunham finished more than 15 seconds faster than the second-place finisher.

Titan Casey led Hudson with a fifth-place clocking of 16:17.7. Right behind Casey was his teammate, Andrew Goldslager, who captured sixth in 16:19.3.

The Explorers had two other runners in the top 10. They were Jack Root (eighth, 16:20.05) and Luke Good (ninth, 16:26.91). Rounding out the top five for Hudson was Ethan Smith (19th, 16:45.57).

The regional competition is scheduled to take place this Saturday at Boardman High School in Boardman Township. Racing is set to begin at 11 a.m.

The Explorers will be heavy favorites to be one of the representatives from the Youngstown region at the state competition. After all, they have reached the promised land five straight times.

As McConnell knows full well, though, nothing is guaranteed. Even for a formidable squad like his beloved alma mater.

"The regional is a completely different animal," McConnell said. "You have to respond well to the pressure. I’ve seen some very good teams that have gone to that race and stumbled. We take it very seriously.

"What always made going to states special is how hard, how stressful and how tense regionals are. It makes the state trip all the more exhilarating."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @FrankAceto_RPC.