Mineral Ridge relay team fueled by close bond

NAVARRE – Tait Rummell looked to the sky prior to Friday’s Division III Navarre Regional track and field meet.

The Mineral Ridge sophomore was thinking of his grandfather William “Bill” Rummell, former Weathersfield school system superintendent (1967-88), and a promise he made prior to his passing last year.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about. It’s something I told my papa, before he passed away, that I’d make it to state,” Tait Rummell said. “I’m happy to know he’s looking down on me and he’s proud.”

Maybe that explains his quick start on the final leg of Friday’s 4×100-meter boys relay final.

“I realize I left a little bit early, but what our coach taught us is we have to trust our other runners,” said Rummell, whose team won the 4×100 in a time of 44.03 seconds. “I trust Mike (Eaton) with my life. Even if I leave a little early, I know he’s going to be right there to give me the stick. I got it, took off and we pulled off a first. I’m proud of our team.”

Eaton, his senior teammate and the team’s third leg, said his 100 is all about protecting his teammates – especially Rummell.

“I just want him to know I’m proud of him,” Eaton said. “I want him to know if I leave early, he’s going to catch up with my slack, pretty much.”

Last year, the team came into the Division III Springfield District final ranked fourth – good enough to advance to regionals. However, the team was disqualified for an exchange-zone violation.

“That was a crushing blow,” Eaton said.

Prior to this year’s districts, all four relay members got fohawk hair cuts.

They proved to be aerodynamic.

“Having a full head of hair is a little bit too much. You cut it, you got a faster time coming,” senior Ethan Dukes said.

Not only was this team fast, but accurate on all three handoffs.

“(Mineral Ridge) coach (Ron Toth) said he wants three perfect handoffs and I believe we gave them to him,” Dukes said.

The 1999 Mineral Ridge 4×100 team of Nathan Sylak, Jesse Getic, Luke DeCesare and George Basista hold the school record of 43.7 and was the last Rams 4×100 team to advance to state.

According to the regional qualifying times, Mineral Ridge should advance to the finals and have a good chance to finish in the top eight. It would be a dream come true for junior Johnn Bourgoin if the Mineral Ridge foursome are on the podium.

“It would be the best feeling of my life,” he said.

For Rummell, it’s a great feeling to know he’ll be running on the Jesse Owens Memorial track this weekend – starting with Friday’s state semifinals.

“The first thing when I get down there is I’m going to kiss that red track because I’m glad I made it with this team,” he said. “They’re like my brothers and I’m so happy.”