Hartman, Kunkel go the distance

Wyatt Hartman remembers the first couple of times he saw Patrick Kunkel beside him, running stride-for-stride around the oval track.

The two then-junior high runners couldn’t shake one another.

“I remember in junior high, the mile – pushing each other to times I thought we could not hit and being able to push each other to that next level,” said Hartman, a senior distance runner at Maplewood High School.

“It’s been a great experience to be able to run with him.”

Kunkel, a senior at McDonald High School, signed with the University of San Francisco last Wednesday. Kunkel, who is leaning toward pre-medicine, chose USF over Ohio State. He liked the scenic Golden Gate Park and Presidio (a former military base and park) in San Francisco.

“It seemed like training there would be a blast out there,” Kunkel said.

He’s had a blast running alongside Hartman these past few seasons.

“Wyatt is a special athlete too,” Kunkel said. “He deserves all the college attention he’s been getting. Running against him over the years is never an easy thing. He’s always putting up a fight, as well he should because he’s a competitor. In cross country and track, it’s been a pretty fun ride with him because it’s been a great, friendly rivalry with him.”

Hartman is continuing his running career at Cedarville University – south of Springfield and east of Dayton.

Hartman was contacted by Penn State, Connecticut and Mississippi, but his heart was set on a smaller venue. He still yearned for the top-flight competition, but wanted his academics satisfied and his soul filled.

He was torn between Malone College and Cedarville – both standout distance programs in the National Christian College Athletic Association.

Hartman, who will major in mechanical engineering, said he was intrigued by the Cedarville program partnering with nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

However, those two weren’t the only area seniors flying around the mid-distance and distance circuits. Add to that Lakeview senior Eric Harris, who was sixth in last year’s Division II state 1,600-meter run. Both Kunkel and Hartman are accomplished Division III runners.

“I think I heard it best from (Dr. Tom) Kunkel (Patrick’s father) a couple of years ago after a Trumbull County Meet,” McDonald boys cross country coach Chris Rupe said. “He said, ‘This used to bother me, watching Eric Harris, Wyatt and Patrick go at it and the idea that Patrick is never able to necessarily win that Trumbull County title here and there. It used to bother me. It doesn’t anymore because it’s so fun to watch the three of them push each other so well. I come to appreciate those two guys and their running and racing because they bring out the best in each other – all of them.’

“It takes time to develop that. Thankfully our sport can allow that to happen and can promote that. Sure, they’re your competition, but you’re going to be better because of them. And what more can we ask for in life than to be around things that make us better.”

Competition like that is one of the many reasons why Trumbull County is the Ohio capital of distance running. As Hartman and Kunkel move on, they’ll be great representatives of this area.