By Kevin Connelly
Kent State junior Miles Dunlap was back home in McDonald over the weekend before heading cross-country for the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.
While he was there, people outside the program kept asking him the same questions:
What’s in McDonald’s water? What’s the secret?
“I didn’t really have an answer,” said Dunlap, who’s one of three McDonald graduates to qualify for this week’s national outdoor meet.
“All I could say is we have good coaches in place, we work hard, and we did it the right way,” Dunlap said. “But I do have to admit, it is pretty cool.”
Dunlap joins former Blue Devil teammates and current Flashes Matthias Tayala and Joh’Vonnie Mosley in what should be recognized as a considerable achievement for a school the size of McDonald.
“I really think it’s a good accomplishment for us three, but I don’t think we should be satisfied with just qualifying,” said Tayala, who’s competing in the hammer throw. “I think that’s kinda how I was last year and hopefully they won’t be like that this year.
“After the fact, we can all look back and see what we were able to do.”
Tayala, also a junior, qualified for and competed in the championships last season, but finished a forgettable 22nd with a throw of 197-08. By comparison, he set his personal-best at the Akron Campbell Wright Open this season, and in doing so set the school record with a mark of 236-07.
He was seeded third following the qualifier, but the nation’s second seed pulled out prior to the event, bumping Tayala up a spot. That’s not affecting the first team All-American’s mindset.
“I think I’m in the perfect position, really, because I’m not supposed to win,” Tayala said. “If I do win it’s a bonus, if I don’t then I wasn’t supposed to.
“So I don’t really feel any pressure over this meet at all.”
He finished fifth at this year’s indoor nationals with a weight throw of 72-6.25. Tayala said not performing well at the outdoor meet the season before motivated him to make some changes.
“I didn’t throw as well as I would’ve liked so I changed things up for indoors and had a lot more fun,” he said. “And I ended up throwing better. I think when I have fun I compete better, so that’s going to be my main thing this week.”
Monday, Tayala was named the 2014 Great Lakes Region Men’s Field Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, adding to his already stellar year.
Mosley, the lone senior in the trio, watched her younger sister, Jai’Lyn, win Division III state titles in the shot put and the discus last weekend in Columbus. Now she’ll try and do one better by winning national championships in what will be her first and only trip to the outdoor meet.
She’s seeded 19th in both the shot put and the discus. Mosley finished 13th in the shot put at the indoor championships this season and is a two-time first-team All-Mid-American Conference honoree.
A strong showing in her last meet as a college athlete would certainly be a satisfying end to her career.
For the three athletes to go from McDonald to Kent and be successful is one thing. To travel 2,500-plus miles and compete on the nation’s biggest collegiate track and field stage is something completely different.
Dunlap competed in the regional finals to qualify and knows the type of competition he’s up against in the 400m hurdles.
“I’ve already ran against everyone who’ll be there,” he said. “I’ve been on a big stage before and I’ll probably still get nervous, but I’m not worried about it.”
Their travel schedule to get to the University of Oregon’s campus may be the most gruelling part of their week.
The Flashes left from Akron Canton Airport on Monday at 2:15 p.m. They landed in Atlanta around 4 p.m. and caught a connecting flight to Portland at 5:45. After a four-plus hour flight to Oregon, they had to get on a bus and drive some two hours to the school’s campus.
But they did gain three hours on the trip for their troubles.
Dunlap was taking the cross-country trek in stride.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a pretty long day, but it’s all good,” he said, walking through the Atlanta airport.
He’s just excited to get his first shot at proving he belongs in the conversation.
“I’ve been on the same routine, same training, and it’s really paid off,” Dunlap said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?”