When the calendar flips to October, cross country teams start to see the light at the end of their tunnels.
The road to the state meet - which is slated for the first Saturday in November - heats up locally Saturday with the annual running of the Cal Pokas OVAC Cross Country Championship at Meadowbrook High School in Byesville.
Action gets under way with the boys' varsity race at 10 a.m. and the girls will begin approximately 45 minutes later.
Champions will be crowned in four classes. The A/AA title is a combined crown, while each of the other classes will field its own champion.
The defending boys' champions are St. John Central (1A/2A), Magnolia (3A), St. Clairsville (4A) and University (5A).
On the girls' side, the meet titles were captured by Caldwell (1A/2A), Fort Frye (3A), St. Clairsville (4A) and University (5A).
The Lady Red Devils' title was their fifth straight and fifth overall. St. C.'s boys' crown was the ninth in school history.
St. John Central's boys title was the program's 10th, which puts it in a three-way tie for second place in conference history. Shadyside leads the way with 12 titles.
Some of the area runners to keep an eye on on the boys' side include: Corey Leasure (St. John), Drake Walker (St. Clairsville), Alex Timko (St. Clairsville), Brandon Stephens (Barnesville), Caleb Hayes (Union Local), Chayse Staten (Buckeye Local) and Joe Davies (St. Clairsville).
On the girls' side, St. John sophomore Fallon Doyle is one of the top entrants. She finished third in last season's race, trailing only runners from University and Morgantown.
Other local girls, who could be in the thick of the race this season, include Tara Tollett (Shadyside), Amy Castle (St. Clairsville), Sunshine Wrenn (Martins Ferry), Jamie Truchan (Martins Ferry), Hannah Nagy (Union Local), Julianna Madzia (St. Clairsville), McKayla Kinemond (Shadyside), Lindsay Cunningham (Martins Ferry), Hannah Surface and (East Richland Christian).
The road to Columbus continues for the Ohio schools next weekend as the OVCCL Championship at Buckeye Local High School.