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Salem teams relay a message at regional

Salem’s Maggie Hopple and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Anne Rea jockey for position in the 3200-meter relay on Thursday at the Div. II regional meet at Austintown Fitch. (Photo by Ron Firth)

AUSTINTOWN — After setting a school record last week with the fastest time in the state, everyone was chasing the Salem girls 3200-meter relay team at the Austintown Division II regional track meet Thursday.

“We knew we had a target on our backs,” Salem sophomore Megan Stafford said.

Woodridge and Chagrin Falls passed the Quakers on the last leg at Falcon Stadium.

Salem’s Megan Stafford, Maggie Hopple, Molly Hopple and Maggie Hall finished third in 9 minutes, 33.01 seconds — which was 12 seconds off their district-winning time.

“We’ll do it when it matters,” Stafford said.

Woodridge — led by Izzy Best’s 2:12 opening leg — won in 9:23.78.

“They ran something they hadn’t all year,” Stafford said. “You have to give it to them.”

Chagrin Falls was second in 9:29.11.

“It’s a great feeling, especially not getting out on a wild card (like last year),” Stafford said.

The Salem boys 3200-meter relay team of Andy Wilson, Lucas Ziegler, Davin Koskinen and Will Madison finished sixth with a season-best 8:10.31.

The top four in each event advance to the state meet at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium next weekend, but the Salem boys claimed one of the two at-large berths by half a second.

Stafford is the only returnee from the Quakers’ state squad last year.

“It’s a whole different team,” she said. “Last year we were all so close. And this year we are all close. Both teams feel like my family.”

The Quakers were coming off a district title in a school-record time of 9:21.12.

“I didn’t know we were going that fast,” Stafford said. “It was shocking.

“We saw what the school record was. That was our goal, go get this. And we did.”

Stafford brings two words of advice after her state experience last year.

“Enjoy it, because you only have so many of them,” she said. “You don’t know when you’ll get back.”

This time the Quakers are back to run in the biggest race of their lives.

“You have got to get out real quick,” Stafford said. “I was the third runner (last year) and we were five wide.”

The Quakers will be in the state finals at 1:30 p.m. next Friday, June 3.

“We want to break our record and hopefully win,” Stafford said.

The West Branch girls 3200 relay team of Eris Dugan, Avah Stull, Clarice Martin and Kaylee Burcaw was 14th (10:48.07).

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