Salem’s Maggie Hopple qualifies for states in dramatic fashion, Quakers win 1st regional title

Staff photo / Preston Byers Salem's Maggie Hopple runs during the 1600-meter race Saturday in Austintown.

AUSTINTOWN — Before she began the 1600-meter run Saturday at the Division II regional track meet at Austintown Fitch, Salem junior Maggie Hopple closed her eyes, prayed and then took off on a dramatic mile-long race with another state tournament appearance on the line.

After nearly five minutes and 1,500 meters, Hopple rounded onto the backstretch neck-and-neck with Chagrin Falls’ Mila Gresh, Canal Fulton Northwest’s Madelyn Begert and Woodridge’s Marissa Boone. Several seconds behind first and second place, the four girls were all competing for the final two automatic state qualifier spots.

As they sprinted in the last 100 meters toward the finish line and a potential state tournament berth, Hopple looked around at the other girls.

“I kind of was just thinking — I really wasn’t thinking, I’m gonna be honest,” Hopple said of the moment. “I just kind of was like ‘stick with the girl in front of you’ and then at the end, whatever I have left, I have left to give.”

Hopple gave it her all. While Boone edged her out in the end for third, Hopple, with a personal record of 5:04.10, managed to hold off Begert and Gresh for the fourth and final automatic state qualifying spot. Moments after crossing the line, Hopple lay on the Austintown Fitch turf, exhausted and a little stunned by her feat.

“At first, I almost didn’t do the 1600 before my 800 because that’s my main event, or what I wanted to get out in. But I just said I’ll give it a shot and see how I can do. I surprised myself for sure,” Hopple said.

Salem girls track and field coach Bethany Glasser said Hopple is a “great fighter,” which her 1600-meter performance proved.

“If it comes down to the end, she has such great foot speed she can really outkick so many people,” Glasser said. “It’s just cool to watch her fight throughout the whole race.”


Almost exactly an hour after the start of the regional meet Saturday, a thunderstorm arrived in Austintown. Just minutes following a noon tornado siren test, rain poured down onto competitors and spectators alike as they scurried to their vehicles during the first of two severe weather delays.

“It was a little bit of a pain,” said Salem thrower Kaylee Carlisle, whose girls discus finals had to wait until after the delay.

Competition resumed after an hour-long pause and continued for another hour before the meet was halted again due to weather, forcing everyone back out of Greenwood Chevrolet Austintown Falcon Stadium. The second delay lasted approximately 30 minutes.

The rain, fortunately, held off for the remainder of the meet, but upon the conclusion the final event, the boys 4×400-meter relay, Mother Nature reared her head once again. This time, large, cold rain droplets fell, fittingly drenching those who remained in the stadium.


While the athletes anxiously await their events, their families and friends await just as anxiously sitting on the bleachers or standing around the fence.

Krista Butcher, a former middle school track and field coach, is one of those parents who chooses to stand by the fence. Butcher, whose son, South Range senior Logan Butcher, competed in the 400-meter dash and 4×400-meter relay Saturday, tried to explain how she handles the emotions and anxiety of Logan’s races.

“Oh my gosh, I don’t think I am handling it well,” Butcher said. “I’m as nervous as he is. It’s almost like I’m in the blocks with him.

“I just feel what he feels. I feel frustration when he feels frustration. When he’s anxious and nervous, it’s me; I’m feeling it too. When he’s excited, I am too. They’re your kids. You feel everything that they feel. You never stop.”

Logan finished seventh in the 400 with a time of 50.78, while his relay team narrowly missed out on states with a fifth-place time of 3:26.89.


Despite the rain, Salem dominated the day. Whether it was Carlisle in the discus, Rylee Hutton in the long jump or the team’s many runners, the Quaker girls proved their prowess Saturday by capturing the first regional title in program history.

The Salem girls finished the day with 73 points, eight more than second-place Gilmour Academy and enough to have already secured the championship before Hopple, Hutton, Maggie Hall and Annika Murray qualified for the state tournament with a third-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay.

“They put their heart and soul into everything this season,” Glasser said.

Hutton had one of the longest days of any of the athletes in Austintown; the senior athlete began her day with a first-place PR of 18-0 in the long jump and finished with a state-qualifying performance in the 4×400.

“It means everything,” Hutton said of the team’s title. “All the girls on our team, I know they’re gonna give it 110% every time, which is something really special that we have, and it led to great things today.”

Carlisle also did her fair share in earning the Quakers points, as the Kent State commit won the girls discus with a best throw of 136-3, defeating defending regional winner Kennady Grace of Champion.

“It’s so special. It just shows how hard we work, how great of a program that we have. It’s really special to be a part of,” Carlisle said.

Nearly a dozen members of the Salem girls track and field will be heading to Dayton this coming week for the OHSAA state meet.

“Honestly, I think this is just the start of their success,” Glasser said. “I think when they get down there and they have each of them to feed off of, I think they’re gonna shine really bright at states.”


Seven area athletes qualified the state meet in individual events Saturday: Hutton (girls long jump and 400-meter dash), Girard’s Mia Malito (girs long jump), Carlisle and Grace (girls discus), Canfield’s Ava Littler (100-meter hurdles), Hopple (girls 1600-meter run), South Range’s Emmitt Slabach (boys 1600-meter run) and Hall (girls 800-meter run).

Additionally, Salem’s 4×200 and 4×400, West Branch’s 4×200 and Girard’s 4×100-meter relay teams qualified for the meet in Dayton with top-four finishes Saturday.

The state meet will begin at approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday at Welcome Stadium.


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