Rockets to race in ‘country’s biggest meet’

MECCA – Mike Dahmen, Wyatt Hartman, Derek Morrison and Solomon Yoder made their 4×800 relay mark prior to the season – clocking an 8:10.13.

It was almost 4 seconds faster than the qualifying time for Friday’s Penn Relays, which begins at 9:20 a.m. at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

“That’s a very promising result at the indoor meet,” Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said. “I’m impressed of how well they’re running already.”

Defending Division III 4×800 state champion Columbus Academy edged out Maplewood last season. Columbus Academy finished 17th out of 73 teams at last year’s Penn Relays.

This is the Rockets first-ever trip to Philadelphia.

“It’s definitely been a big goal of ours since the indoor,” Hartman said. “Last year we saw a couple teams we raced against at state that went to the Penn Relays. So, we wanted to get our chance to go down there.”

Despite Friday’s outcome, Hartman said his team will learn from the experience.

“I think it’s going to be a learning tool to run against teams better than us and around what we’re running, to have someone to pace off of,” he said. “It’s the biggest meet in the country and has professional runners. I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will help to deal with teams out ahead of us and right with us.”

Beside the quartet of distance runners, Maplewood is taking junior Steve Pop, who threw the discus 163 feet, 11 inches at the Lew Speece Invitational at Western Reserve High School earlier this year. Pop took sixth at last year’s Division III state meet with a throw of 162-0.

The qualifier for the Penn Relays was 150-11.

“That should be good experience for him, to get to throw against guys from Jamaica and all over the country,” Hartman said.

As for the 4×800, this could be the start of a special season for the Rockets, Yoder said.

“The three of the them have been running all winter long, keeping themselves in shape,” he said. “One was on the basketball team, so he’s keeping himself in shape doing that. They got some things to look forward to. They can really do some good things this year.”