Dueling long distance
McDonald teams sweep 4x800 relays on first day
CORTLAND — Zack Canada took the baton in his hand. Two laps around the track is all that lay ahead of the McDonald High School junior.
Normally the Blue Devils are either alone in first or have a familiar team like Maplewood, Badger or Howland near them in the 4×800-meter relay.
On Tuesday, Warren G. Harding’s team was close heading into the final two laps of the eight-lap event. The Raiders, who have never won the distance relay since the Trumbull County Meet has been at Lakeview High School (dating back to 1995), won the race Saturday at the Poland Invitational.
The Raiders had momentum, leading for the better part of the first three legs on Tuesday.
But Canada had his own extra momentum heading into his 800 portion.
Former McDonald runner Zack Fedyski was watching, rooting on his Blue Devils. He knows what goes into running a 4×800 relay. Fedyski let Canada know heading into his portion of the race.
Canada made his move with about 300 meters remaining and never trailed as McDonald won in its best time of the season in 8:21.82. Harding finished second (8:23.88).
It was the first time since 2011 that a team not named Maplewood won this event at the county meet. The Rockets won the boys 4×800 since from 2012-18. The last non-Maplewood team to win it prior to Tuesday was Lakeview’s team of Aaron Jesse, Christopher Edie, Eric Harris and Nick Tripi in 2011.
“He said you’ve got to make the move now,” Canada said of Fedyski “It really got me excited.”
Harding’s team of senior JeSean Sledge and juniors Reed Stanyard, Zacchaeus Warfield and Cullen Faulk ran its best time of the season.
“We knew we had some good competition here,” Canada said. “Coming here, we were excited about it.”
The McDonald girls had their own excitement, coming off last year’s county meet in which the Blue Devils set a meet record of 9:51.49 for the 4×800.
McDonald has been chasing that elusive sub-10 minute time all season and did it to win Tuesday at 9:59.83. It is the fifth straight year McDonald has won the race.
“We were trying to get under 10 these past few weeks,” said Sela Jones, who ran anchor for the Blue Devils. “Either the wind has been pretty bad or it’s been raining. Today the conditions are about perfect. We really wanted to shoot for it today.”
McDonald has the top time in the Division III Massillon Perry Regional, but was trailed closely by Maplewood. The Rockets ran almost 25 seconds faster than their season-best time as the underclassmen team of freshmen Marissa Ventura, Emily Butler and Abigail Nay, and sophomore Kylee Sheely ran 10:00.73.
“It was a good feeling,” McDonald’s Jones said of winning. “After we won last year and got the record, we wanted to shoot for at least winning again.”
Janessa Martinelli, who has been running with Jones, Anna Guerra and Bella Wolford since seventh grade, completes the quartet of juniors.
This 4×800 team had a big void to fill Malina Mitchell graduating and running at West Virginia University, but Jones said Marintelli has made the host of juniors complete.
Jones, Guerra, Wolford and Mitchell have placed fourth in the state the past two seasons in Division III. McDonald is currently ranked third in the state.
“We’ll see where the season takes us,” Jones said. “We have a lot different makeup since we lost Malina the past year, but I don’t think that’s going to stop us from achieving our goals we’ve set.”
This isn’t a race Canada is used to running, but he treasured the moment, running with sophomores Brody Rupe and Greg Dickson, and junior Connor Symbolik.
“It’s very morale-boosting,” he said. “It’s very awesome to us. It’s exciting, especially for myself. I do hurdles. I’m very excited to have this opportunity and have a great race like that.