Mitchell’s last race has Blue Devil girls in 2nd

The Niles Times / John Vargo McDonald’s Malina Mitchell, Abbie Matig, Bella Wolford and Jessica Stamp finished second with a school-record time of 3:56.90 to take second in Saturday’s Division III 4x400-meter girls relay event in Columbus.

COLUMBUS — The black baton with an Ohio High School Athletic Association inscription passed from one runner to the next.

Only 400 meters stood between them and each handoff. Four times around the track.

Malina Mitchell, knowing her career at McDonald High School was down to this — one lap around the track. Begging for the baton to get to her faster, she grabbed the lightweight implement and scurried around the Jesse Owens Memorial Track, as much as one can hurry around in a grueling 400-meter race with the sun beating down on your every move.

The pain. It didn’t matter. It never did. Someone who suffered a broken leg and two stress fractures — one as recently as the state cross country meet in November — in her storied McDonald career always came back stronger than ever. A rarity for sure.

“I knew I had to get out fast and stay fast because anchors are always insane,” Mitchell said.

She was side-by-side with Covington’s anchor runner. The drive was there, but it wasn’t meant to be this day. McDonald finished second, breaking a school record in the process, during this Division III girls 4×400-meter relay on Saturday with 3:56.90. Covington went 3:56.71.

The McDonald 4×400 relay from two seasons ago when Mitchell won state as the anchor, had a different feel this time around. The teammates. The excitement. Abbie Matig, Bella Wolford and Jessica Stamp were dancing around in the infield, celebrating the moment.

It was a reason to celebrate, adding to the storied history of what is McDonald track and field.

“When you set a school record, it’s a really special feeling,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had so many talented runners go through our school.”

She’s the school-record holder in the 1600, in which she took fifth on Saturday with a 5:06.07.

This is a distance runner who didn’t run for three months after her stress fracture which devastated her at cross country state meet. Her leg was propped up on a folding chair as other runners passed her at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. But she went out on her own terms.

“To go from that to state runner-up team is an incredible feeling. It makes it even more worth my while,” Mitchell said.

She goes down as one of the best distance runners in McDonald history, part of the 2014 state championship cross country team as a freshman — not a bad way to start her career. Then finishing as a state runner-up.

Mitchell takes off her navy blue and white uniform for the last time and trades it in for the blue and gold of West Virginia University as she becomes part of the Mountaineers’ family.

“When I get home and take it off for the last time, it’ll be pretty emotional,” she said. “I’m excited for the future to continue my running career.”

Country roads are taking this McDonald runner home.