Rockets’ relay team dominates

NAVARRE – Maplewood’s 4×800 team doesn’t wilt under the hot May sun.

Instead, the Rockets torch all-weather tracks.

Friday, their target was Fairless High School’s Brideweser Stadium.

Maplewood’s quartet of Solomon Yoder, Mike Dahmen, Derek Morrison and Wyatt Hartman cut more than 10 seconds off of its season’s best time set at this year’s Trumbull County Meet – running 7 minutes, 55.68 seconds at Wednesday’s Division III Navarre track and field regional.

Hartman remembers being part of the Rockets’ 4×800 team that set the regional record in 2010 (7:50.83).

“It blew our minds,” Hartman said. “Then this year, coming here and getting a PR (personal record) like that is just awesome.”

McDonald’s Patrick Kunkel started the Blue Devils first two laps around the track – leading the whole way. Bobby Johnson, David Natoli and anchor Allan Coviello held off fourth-place Tuscarawas Central Catholic (8:16.26). Gilmour Academy was second (8:04.38).

“You never really know what’s going to happen in a northeast Ohio regional,” said Kunkel, whose team finished in a time of 8:15.09. “We wanted to get that lead. We wanted to have guys come from behind, push other guys and see where it would take us from there.”

Gilmour Academy started to take the lead through the second leg with Maplewood and McDonald trailing.

Maplewood’s third leg, Derek Morrison, started to close the gap between him and the Lancers’ third runner. Morrison finally overtook the Gilmour Academy runner and started to pull away in the second of the two laps.

“The last 300 is key to get Wyatt that lead, try to get us the win,” Morrison said.

Morrison’s two laps were less than 2 minutes, which he’s done before.

“Once you get under that 2 minute barrier, you can really have the opportunity to cut a lot of time off. I saw that out of him today,” Hartman said.

The top four in each regional final advance to next weekend’s state meet in Columbus.

Maplewood is leading the boys standing with 18 points, while United is second with 13. McDonald and Buckeye Trail are tied for third with 12 points, while South Range is fifth (11).

Maplewood’s Stephen Pop had a discus throw of 161 feet heading into the final throws. Then, Rootstown’s David Paliscak popped off a 178-8 to win the regional.

“Let him beat me here, I guess. Better than beating me next time,” Pop said.

McDonald’s Christian Smith took third (157-2). South Range’s Jon Kenney was fourth (156-7).

“I’m happy for what I did,” Smith said.

Then, Badger senior Taylor Baumiller overcame a lower back injury from last season and heads back to state. She finished third with 5-2 in the girls high jump. She advance to state her sophomore year.

“It feels really good,” Baumiller said. “I actually cried. Last year, all season, I was injured. I didn’t get a chance to do good. It’s nice to get out this year.”

Gilmour Academy, Steubenville Catholic Central and Rootstown lead the girls standings with 10 points each. Badger is fourth with 9.5 points. Newbury, Waynedale, Columbiana and Hawken are tied for fifth with eight points each.

The remainder of the field events begin Friday, starting at 4:30 p.m. All running finals start at 6 p.m., at Brideweser Stadium.