Hilliard Bradley High School cross country coach Jon Agriesti was looking to expand the field of teams as he organized this season's Midwest Meet of Champions, which takes place Saturday at Darby, without watering down the competition.

Hilliard Bradley High School cross country coach Jon Agriesti was looking to expand the field of teams as he organized this season's Midwest Meet of Champions, which takes place Saturday at Darby, without watering down the competition.

He accomplished both goals.

There are 26 boys teams and 21 girls teams scheduled to compete in the event which is in its ninth year.

"It's usually about a 16-team field and now it's just kind of snowballed," Agriesti said. "It's really kind of a best-of-the-best now. If you're a team that's going to run deep into state, you know you're going to see some good competition."

In earlier MMOC meets, nearly half the field was comprised of teams from out of state, but lately it has involved more teams from Ohio and has turned into a true gauge of what next month's state meet could be like.

"We're going to try to use it more as a learning experience," Darby boys coach Cori Schulte said. "We're going to try out some different things that we're going to do later in the season as far as who will be running with who."

All three Hilliard high school teams are expected to compete. As for the local boys teams, Reynoldsburg returns to join newcomers Dublin Coffman, Dublin Jerome, Olentangy Liberty and Pickerington North.

Mason, which won the Division I state championship last year and returned six of seven runners from that team, is among the favorites in the boys field. Leading the Comets is Zach Wills, who won the Division I state title last year in 15 minutes, 15.66 seconds.

Wills also won last year's MMOC in 15:02 and some, like Agriesti, won't be surprised if Wills breaks the 15-minute mark Saturday.

Mason also won the MMOC team title with 94 points, beating 14 other teams including runner-up Toledo St. John's (110). Davidson was fifth (133) and Darby was 10th (214).

The course, which winds around the north athletic fields at Darby, is known for its level ground and fast times. There were 18 runners who broke the 16-minute mark a year ago.

"We kind of use (the MMOC) to see how fast we can run and try to set (personal records)," said Kenta Shimizu, who is Davidson's top runner. Also attending will be Cleveland St. Ignatius, which is the top-ranked team in the Division I state coaches poll. Mason is second.

In all, seven teams ranked in the top 10 in Division I are expected to participate, including Coffman (ranked seventh) and North (eighth). Reynoldsburg (15th) and Davidson (18th) are also ranked.

Goshen (Ky.) North Oldham, the Kentucky Class AA (small school) state champion, is also in the field.

The girls race features six of the state's top 10 Division I teams, led by top-ranked Rocky River Magnificat.

Dublin Scioto, which is ranked fifth, is also expected to attend. Other local teams are Coffman, New Albany, Reynoldsburg and the three Hilliard schools.

Magnificat, which won the Division I state championship last year with 68 points, returned its entire team. Leading Magnificat is Madeline Chambers, who was fifth (18:17.91) last year at state.

Magnificat also won the MMOC, with 31 points, as Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy was second (89).

St. Ursula, ranked eighth, is expected to return along with third-ranked Hudson, sixth-ranked Mason and seventh-ranked Brunswick. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, which is ranked second in Division II, is also in the field, as well as Van Wert (eighth in Division II) and Russia (11th in Division III).

Emma Brink of Louisville (Ky.) Sacred Heart is expected to be the frontrunner. Brink won the Class AAA (big school) state title last year (18:37.64). She also won Class AAA state titles in the 800 meters (2:13.88) the 1,600 (5:05.95) and the 3,200 (11:13.45) in the state track meet.

The top local runners are Megan Collins (Coffman), Jessica Hoover (Davidson), Shannon Kelleher (Darby) and Minori Minagawa (Scioto).

"You really are going to be able to sit and watch some great individuals," Agriesti said. "That's exciting."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Bradley, Darby and Davidson cross country teams:

BRADLEY

Last Saturday -- Finished fourth (148) in 17-team Division I race in Bob Reall Cross Country Invitational at Lancaster as Hudson (57) won; Girls: Finished 14th (416) in 30-team Division II race as St. Clairsville (25) won Saturday -- At Midwest Meet of Champions at Darby

DARBY

Last Saturday -- Boys: Did not compete; Girls: Finished fourth (95) in eight-team Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central as Pickerington North (73) won Saturday -- Home in Midwest Meet of Champions

DAVIDSON

Last Saturday -- Finished second (82) to New Albany (67) in 14-team Tiger Invitational. Kenta Shimizu was second (16:59.74) and Nathan Moore was third (17:08.5); Girls: Finished fifth (158) in 17-team Cloverleaf Colt Pack Invitational at Lodi Cloverleaf as Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy (48) won. Jessica Hoover was fourth (19:18.7). Saturday -- At Midwest Meet of Champions at Darby