Kings of the county
Mauri powers Howland boys; Mitchell lifts Blue Devil girls to title
The Tigers junior distance runner couldn’t help but smile each time he passed the finish line.
He raised up one finger as he won the 1,600-meter run, two for the 800. Then came the 3,200-meter run, the next-to-last running final of Thursday’s Trumbull County Track and Field Meet. Another win all but secured the Tigers third-straight County title.
He didn’t smile as much during these eight laps. It was all business — and all about his team as he amassed 32 points with the ironman effort to win the 800, 1,600 and 3,200. He was part of the second-place 4×800 relay team Tuesday — which accounted for the other two points. His 4:22.43 in the 1,600 broke the school record set by Youngstown State’s Ryan Sullivan.
Considering it was overcast, muggy and warm — not cold and crappy — it boded well for Mauri on Thursday.
“I just wanted to take advantage of the day and make it a good race,” said Mauri, who was the boys meet MVP.
Howland won the team title with 92 points, holding off second-place Lakeview (79). Warren G. Harding and McDonald each placed third (67).
“I’m just really happy to help my team and give us a chance at a third county championship in a row and maybe fourth,” Mauri said.
McDonald senior Malina Mitchell, who won last year’s girls 800 and 1,600 at county, took a different double this year. The West Virginia University signee won the 1,600 and 3,200 as girls running MVP. She earned 2.5 points on Tuesday as part of the meet-record 4×800 relay.
Her performance was integral to McDonald’s domination, leading the girls team to the school’s first team title since 2001. The Blue Devils were ahead of second-place Lakeview, 135 to 104. Niles was third with 58.
She saw sophomore Anna Guerra take fourth in both the 1,600 and 3,200. Her breathing isn’t where it needs to be, but she sacrificed for the team despite struggling through her training. She collapsed after each race, trying to maintain a semblance of normal breathing.
It’s what McDonald runners do. It’s part of the team and town’s winning culture. They never surrender, no matter the odds.
“It’s honestly a big deal,” Mitchell said of winning the team title. “We’re a Division III school going against Division I schools that have double, if not triple the amount of kids as we do. So to be able compete with them, or even beat them, is a huge accomplishment. That really does go back to our coaches.
“Year after year we’re in the running for a team title. Although the athletes change, the coaches never do. That’s what makes us better than some of the other teams here.”
McDonald junior Jessica Stamp, who anchored the winning 4×200 and 4×400 relays, knew this victory wasn’t about one person. It never is. It’s about a program focused on getting better each day.
“We’re so supportive of each other,” Stamp said. “We encourage each other. That’s what motivates us to do good.”
Howland’s Mauri wasn’t the only contributor to the Tigers’ success. They have plenty of other people in the finals who contributed.
First-year Howland coach Logan Sheptock was impressed to see the collaboration on Thursday.
“We have the ultimate team,” he said. “I know track is said to be an individual sport (but) this is our team. Guys rally around each other. They always ask, ‘Coach, what can I do to help? What can I do to score more points? How can we help the team win?’ “
Howland was without senior sprinter Manny Perez, who could’ve added plenty of other points. He said he’ll try to return for next week’s conference meet after being out the last couple of weeks with a pulled hamstring.
Mauri did his best to help the Tigers, and then some.
“The kid is phenomenal,” Sheptock said. “He trains harder then anyone I’ve ever met before. He runs nonstop. He loved to do it. You can tell he wants to do it.
“I think he’s finally understanding how good he is.”
It’s something most track and field people in this area have known for some time.