McDonald impressing early in the season

McDonald has been one of the most versatile boys track and field teams of recent memory.

The Blue Devils, led by Kent State University standouts Matthias Tayala and Miles Dunlap, won the 2011 Division III state team title.

Tayala, the 2011 Tribune Chronicle Male Athlete of the Year, won the discus and shot put titles that season, while Dunlap won the 300-meter hurdles, placed second in the 110 hurdles and took third in the open 200.

McDonald, which won the 1999 Division III state title on its distance prowess, is led this year by senior Patrick Kunkel – a recent Student-Athlete of the Week from the Tribune Chronicle news partner MyValleySports.

Kunkel won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races at Saturday’s Joe Lane Invitational – leading the Blue Devils to the Joe Lane team title.

However, the Blue Devils’ most impressive feat was the performance of sophomore Christian Smith and his discus throw of 162 feet, 6 inches Saturday in Mineral Ridge.

But for those who know the McDonald program, it shouldn’t be that much of a shock. In recent years, with coaching from arguably two of the best area throws coaches in Mary and Jeanette Domitrovich, the Blue Devils have had plenty of success at state. Kent State standout Joh’Vonnie Mosley won the Division III girls discus and took second in the shot put at the 2010 Division III state meet. Mosley’s younger sister Jai’Lyn Mosley and Tory Ross – both juniors – took top five in last year’s Division III girls discus. Ross won the discus title Saturday at Joe Lane.

Speaking of dominating the field, John F. Kennedy sophomore Chad Zallow is already distancing himself from the area Division III field. He handily won the 110 and 300 hurdles titles at Joe Lane by an average of 2 seconds.

Girard’s girls team started the outdoor season with a 4×400 indoor state title and second place in the 4×200 already secured in Divisions II-III at the Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches’ event.

The Indians dominated Saturday’s Tiger Invitational in Newton Falls with nine first-place finishes in the long jump, high jump, 100 hurdles, 100, 4×200 and 4×400 relays, 3,200, 200 and 400.

At East Palestine, Austintown Fitch’s boys team rolled past the competitors at Saturday’s William Ward Invitational. Senior Billy Price, who will play football for Ohio State this fall, won the shot put and discus and seems on track to get back to the state meet again this season with throws of 165-11 in the discus and 58-8.25 in the shot put. Junior Sam Ortz had an early-season high jump of 6-4 and the Falcons clocked times of 1:30.91 in the 4×200 and 43.80 in the 4×100 to claim more first-place finishes at the Ward Invite.

Fitch has established itself as the team to beat at this year’s Division I Austintown District in mid-May.

Finally, at the Icebreaker Invitational in Ashtabula, two worlds collided as distance power Maplewood and speed-oriented Warren G. Harding went against one another. As expected, Harding won the 100, 200, 110 hurdles, 4×100, 4×200 and 4×400. Then, Maplewood took the 4×800, 800 and 3,200.

But it was the 4×800 and 800 that made for interesting conversation.

Maplewood won the 4×800 in a time of 8:23.62, but Harding, which took third, wasn’t that far behind with a 8:28.73.

But the real topic was the 800 with the close race between Maplewood’s Wyatt Hartman and Harding’s Jimmy Rumple. The two seniors have established themselves, along with Kunkel from McDonald, as the area’s best half-milers. Hartman edged Rumple, 2:01.33 to 2:01.75.

Look for more battles between Hartman and Rumple this season in those two laps around the track.