CROSS COUNTRY Rockets get new leader, and title
Derek Armstrong, trying to succeed Dave Pykare as Maplewood's leader, led the Rockets to the Spartan title.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- A familiar face wearing an Akron Zips T-shirt walked up to Maplewood High senior Derek Armstrong at Saturday's Spartan Invitational.
"That's the best race I've seen you run," Dave Pykare said to Armstrong. "You made about eight moves on those guys."
Pykare was the leader of last year's Maplewood team, which finished second in the state. Pykare now runs at Akron and Armstrong is looking to take more of a leadership role for Maplewood.
"Dave was a pretty good leader to the younger guys," said Armstrong, who finished second in Division III to lead the Rockets to the team title. "I'm just looking to do what Dave did."
Moser, Kunkel 3-4
Armstrong ran 16:47 to finish behind Brandon Inboden of Heritage Christian. Maplewood junior Paul Moser placed third and McDonald's Joe Kunkel was fourth.
"We thought we could win the team title," Armstrong said. "We just tried to keep it in a pack and get a good team finish. I was pretty dead by the end of the race."
McDonald placed second as the usual suspects dominated Div. III.
Jackson-Milton's Luke McCluggage, who qualified for last spring's state track meet, shook off a calf injury to finish fifth. He ran in the open race last year, but Jackson-Milton paid to enter the team race so McCluggage could face better competition.
"I like to compete," he said. "I'd rather run a 15 [minute race] and not place than run a 17 and win the open race."
McCluggage finished 34th at last year's regional meet at Boardman High, and said he hasn't run well at the Spartan course. He wants to improve on his regional finish and advance to the state meet.
Eyes state podium
"I'd like to at least get on the podium at state," McCluggage said. "I was told you can take your finish here and double it for state, so I need to work harder."
West Branch's Matt Scott placed 18th as only one area runner placed in the top 25 in Div. II. Matt Buzek of St. Vincent, St. Mary won the individual title and Ashtabula Edgewood claimed the team title. Mooney had the area's best finish, placing eighth.
East Liverpool's Mark Montgomery ran 17:39 to finish 29th in Div. I, the area's best finish. Canton GlenOak won the team title.