Rooting for just one win


Rooting is taboo in the journalism realm. Don’t cheer in the press box. Don’t have favorites. Don’t be biased. Cover things with a clear and open mind.

But, every once in a great while, there are exceptions.

Take Wyatt Hartman.

During his career, the Maplewood High School senior runner made his niche as being a clutch performer.

After a dismal performance in the 1,600-meter run at the Trumbull County Meet, he rallied, got angry (which, if you know Wyatt, is out of character), and distanced himself to win the 800.

But, for better or worse, state meets haven’t been his forte.

Most runners around the state would love to be in his position. He has five second-place finishes at the state track and field meet (two 4×800 relays, two 800 and last year’s 1,600).

Then, there were the times Maplewood went to the state cross country meet and didn’t win a state title. The last one came in 2005.

He runs for Maplewood, a place where there is a hall of fame with the great cross country and track and field athletes from years past.

Saturday, during the Division III 800, Hartman had his best opportunity to win that elusive gold medal. He and Springfield Emmanuel Christian Academy senior Wes Haney were virtually running side-by-side heading into the last 200 meters, coming around the turn at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

Hartman made his move, his final kick with 200 meters to go. Should he have waited until 150 or the 100 mark?

“Looking back, you can always say, ‘Should I have waited? Should I have went earlier,’ ” Hartman said. “Probably could’ve waited to the 100 and probably had more left to get him. I wanted to take the lead and he went out hard. I thought if I could get past him, maybe I could make him die. I wanted to be aggressive today. I was going for a good time, too.

“I’m confident with where I went.”

Hartman lost to Haney by less than a second.

McDonald senior Patrick Kunkel, who will run for the University of San Francisco next year, felt Hartman’s pain last year in the 1,600. The race, once again, was dominated by the precision running style of St. Thomas Aquinas’ Cory Glines. He set the fast pace, a pace he’ll certainly continue when he’s running for the University of Michigan. However, Tri-Village’s Clayton Murphy made the surge late in the race to pass Glines and win state.

Watching Hartman in the 800, you just wanted him to will himself past Haney. You wanted this Maplewood senior to make the top of the podium for the first time in his high school career.

You wanted at least one gold medal to be on his neck before heading to Cedarville University.

Even in defeat, Hartman remained humble. He was grateful for winning five second-place finishes in his career.

You just wanted this good guy – someone you wouldn’t think twice about letting your daughter date – to finally finish first.