ATTICA - Saturday's Midland Athletic League meet was the end of an era for most, since the league disbands after this school year.
But for Seneca East coach Doug Mason and his Tigers, it was just the start of what truly matters.
Seneca East took the first three individual spots Saturday as the Tigers coasted past Hopewell-Loudon 28-55 for the first of what Mason hopes is four consecutive titles this fall.
"It's the start of where you're starting to run for championships. The MAL championship's this week and then we start the districts and regionals and obviously the biggest goal at the end, so it's part of the process," said Mason after Seneca East claimed its third MAL crown in a row. "It's just keep working hard each week. We're at a certain stage in our training. We're not peaking yet, and hopefully we'll get there.
"To go out and run well in front of all our fans, and to run a great event - lots of parent volunteers and community volunteers made this happen - it's been a process. It's sad to see the end of the MAL. A lot of great coaches, a lot of great accomplishments by the league," he said. "It's a great way to go out."
And come in.
Junior Jared Stockmaster won in 16:06.23, with twin classmates Carson (16:39.05) and Wes Pipher (17:00.36) running second and third for the Tigers.
Stockmaster was glad for the personal and team win, but said he really hoped he would close out the meet by bettering the meet record.
"It feels really good knowing that on our course, we won the MAL. It feels good to win," he said.
"I was hoping for a 15:30 but I guess it didn't work out. I was trying to beat the MAL record of 15:33," he said. "My legs were really hurting through the whole race. I couldn't make them go any more."
Junior Michael Szabo added a seventh (17:41.99) to give the Tigers four first-team runners.
The top eight gained first-team honors, with spots ninth through 16th earning second-team awards, and honorable mentions going to those who took 17th through 24th.
Junior Bryce Watson finished 15th (18:06.01) to complete Seneca East's scorers, with senior Robby Schaffer adding a 20th (18:21.67) and Brady McWilliams ending 24th (18:26.8).
Their effort helped make up for the loss of senior Jason Willman who is nursing a stress fracture.
And while Mason wants to see one of his top runners return, he said the situation has helped the team in other ways.
"It's allowed others to step up and fill that void for now. Probably the biggest thing has just been his leadership. He goes off and goes to the Y and does what he can do - rowing, up in the weight room. The biggest thing is just the void of not having him in practice and the leadership there. But we had to go through this last year and it forced our other guys to get better, so this year, it's the same thing," Mason said. "Our junior class and Robbie Schaffer, our senior, have really stepped forward to fill this void for now."
Hopewell-Loudon had six runners gain MAL honors, led by Chet Swartzmiller's fourth in 17:14.21.
Alex Wood (17:51.33), Ryan Depinet (17:52.13) and Patric Gase (17:58.81) crossed the line 10th through 12th, while Dylan Napier claimed 18th (18:12.8) and Drew Kurtz came in 23rd (18:25.86).
"There were a lot of people that stepped up, and they're just preparing for what's to come in the next couple races. We're just taking it one week at a time and seeing what we can do each time we go out," H-L coach Helen Coleman said. "I'm very proud of how they ran today.
"I think more than anything, it's just mental, building confidence [for the district meet]," she said. "We had a lot of good races and I think they realize that and they realize what we want to do in the next week or so. It's, more than anything, a confidence-building for them."
Carey clipped Old Fort 92-93 for third, Lakota took fifth (161), Calvert came in seventh (203), St. Wendelin ended eighth (215), and Mohawk held off New Riegel 237-239 for ninth.
Trevor Cook's fifth (17:20.69) keyed Carey, with Evan Hyatt adding a 13th (18:01.63) and Ben Kromer running 16th (18:07.92).
Old Fort got a sixth from Brad Bannister (17:33) and a 17th from Tito Lopez (18:09.31), while Elliott Philmore (18:23.3) and Cole Manasian (18:23.52) ended 21st and 22nd.
John Brodman claimed 14th (18:05.17) and St. Wendelin's Nick DeHaven finished eighth (17:43.03) to round out the area runners who gained MAL honors.
Chris Koehler gave Mohawk a 43rd (19:25.51) and New Riegel's Brandon Arbogast took 48th (19:36.09).