By Bob Evans
COLUMBUS – Always the bridesmaids, never the bride – not anymore.
Just minutes apart, Carrollton seniors Maddie Dunlap and Cole Lovett swept the 1,600-meter runs to become Carrollton’s first ever outdoor track champions (boy or girl) Saturday at the Division II OHSAA Track and Field Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
“Today is our day,” Dunlap said. “We have been running our easy runs together, and we’ve been talking about this moment since, honestly, our freshman year.”
Dunlap, getting her win in less than five minutes (4:57.13), helped to inspire Lovett.
“She finished up and I am like, oh my gosh, she broke five minutes,” Lovett said. “She has been working so hard to get under five. I’m like, ok, it’s my turn. If she can do it, I can do it. I can PR. I can do this.”
“To do it in the same event is just amazing. We have both worked so hard for this.”
Lovett won his race with a time of 4:12.83.
Carrollton head coach Mike Aukerman was one proud coach.
“I am so proud,” Aukerman said. “Cole was determined to make history and would not be stopped. Since last June he had dreamt of being a state champ. He did the work, believed and was driven daily to be a champion. He and Maddie train together daily and do the same training so they knew something special was going to happen this week.”
As a team, the Lady Warriors placed second with 29 points, just six points behind winner Beachwood with 35. It is the highest finish ever for a Carrollton track team.
Dunlap just went out and ran.
“I felt really good throughout the race,” she said. “I expected to have someone running beside me. I thought I would only win by a second. I was shocked by how much I won.”
“I came out a little slow in the first 800 and coach wanted me out at like 2:26 and I think we were out at 2:30. He was yelling at me to go ahead when we were coming down the stretch.
Dunlap was also part of the 3,200-meter relay team that placed second.
The Lady Warriors ran a school-record time of 9:15.61, but defending state champion Chagrin Falls ran a time of 9:12.10 to keep their crown.
“We knew we would have a tough time with them,” said Dunlap, who will be taking her running talents to Kent State University this fall.
It was a wild race down the stretch as Dunlap just held off Indian Creek’s Madison Smith for second by three one-hundredths of a second.
“Coach (Mike Aukerman) said that she was coming and that I was a senior and I had to get it done,” Dunlap said. Also on the record breaking team were sophomores Micah Donley and Allison Davis and junior Grace Bartlow. The team earned All-Ohio honors.
“They ran their hearts out and ran their best when it was needed the most. They set a new school record that will be hard to beat,” said Aukerman.
Dunlap also ran in the 3,200-meter run, where she placed third with a time of 11:00.18. She placed third in the 3,200 in 2016.
Donley qualified for the 400-meter dash where she placed sixth with a time of 56.68, but missed making the finals in the 200-meter dash. She did not run the 100-meter dash.
Davis ran in the 800-meter run, placing 14th with a time of 2:23.72.
Sophomore Alivia Bentley placed seventh in the discus on Friday with a throw of 128’11”. She did not qualify for the finals in the shot put Saturday.
“I am very happy and proud of our kids and the effort they put forth,” said Coach Chris Woolf. “We really came together as a team and worked so hard for each other. They were super supportive and dedicated to each other. I am only as good as those around me and I know I have a great group of coaches that got these girls ready to race and compete. “
Woolf thought the parade they were given Saturday evening upon their return from Columbus was very special.
“The parade was so exciting,” noted Woolf. “The team was so impressed at the level of community support we received and just how fast they came together to support us. I am so proud to be a Carrollton Warrior.”
The Warriors boys 3,200-meter relay team ran a solid race and finished eighth with a time of 8:06.19. Senior Preston Berry, junior Dan Lampe and seniors Quinton Huggett and Lovett earned All-Ohio honors.
The Warriors 4X100-meter relay team of senior Brenton Miller, juniors Jose Diaz and Chase Flanagan and sophomore Calob Dalton, qualified for the finals and placed sixth with a time of 43.56. They are the first Carrollton sprint relay team to place at state.
“I can’t say enough about these guys,” Aukerman said. “They went in as a 14th seed, but were determined to make the podium and All-Ohio. They endured injuries and other misfortune to get there.
In his last high school event, the 3,200-meter run, Lovett was tripped and went to the ground out of bounds and did not finish the race.
Coach Aukerman appealed and was told the officials could not see who interfered with Lovett and that the race would not be rerun because he did not get back into the race.
As a team the Warriors placed 18th with 14 points.
The Warriors were treated to a welcome home parade late Saturday evening when they returned to Carrollton.
The athletes rode into Carrollton in and on village fire trucks, escorted by Carrollton police officers.
The teams unloaded on Public Square where a large contingent of fans were cheering and holding signs.
The athletes were introduced to the crowd by Carrollton Schools Athletic Director Mark Spears and posed for photographs.
Girls Coach Chris Woolf displayed the team’s second place trophy and thanked the community for its continued support of the track teams.