McElroy best distance runner not at state meet

BEVERLY — Mary Kate McElroy is the best 3200-meter distance runner in Ohio Division III and the Mid-Ohio Valley not competing at this weekend’s OHSAA Track & Field State Tournament at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University.

The Fort Frye senior finished fifth overall last Friday in the Massillon Perry regional in a school-record setting time of 11 minutes, 20 seconds. But only the top-4 get to advance to state.

Drat, bummer and all that.

“MK (McElroy’s nickname) ran an outstanding race,” said Cadets distance coach Jason Lipot, who also coached McElroy in cross country. (McElroy earned all-state honors in the sport in the fall.) “She ran a perfect race, and never lost focus, control and drive.”

Thing is, if — and the operative word is if — if McElroy had run the 3200 in the D2 Troy regional, she would’ve actually crossed the finish line first, and moved on to state.

And, if she’d competed in the Tiffin regional or the Lancaster regional, she would’ve placed runner-up and fourth, respectively.

In three of the four D3 regionals, McElroy, with her clocking of 11:20, would be preparing for the state meet this week.

“This is why we call this (Massillon Perry regional) the ‘death’ region, because so many great runners can never make it out,” Lipot said.

Doesn’t seem fair to McElroy and to any of the other thinclads around the state in a similar situation in their event. (Marietta sophomore pole vaulter Baylee Brown might have fared better and possibly gone to state in the Ohio Division I Austintown-Fitch, Amherst, or Dayton regionals than she did in Pickerington, where she finished seventh with a jump of 11-feet, 4 inches.)

Heck, McElroy, if she’d raced in the Ohio Division II Austintown-Fitch and Piqua regionals, would’ve placed third in both and qualified for state.

But, of course, Fort Frye is a D3 school.

“We firmly believe MK is a top-8 All-Ohio 2-miler,” Lipot said, “and the (Massillon Perry regional) proved it.”

As far as the MOV (Mid-Ohio Valley) goes, McElroy, if she’d competed in the state meet at the University of Charleston Stadium in Charleston, W.Va., on May 19-20, would’ve stood at the top of the podium with all-state honors in both Class A and Class AA. The winning 3200 time in single A was 11:46; and in double A, it was 11:25.

Interestingly, McElroy was a Newcomerstown district champion and regional qualifier in both the 3200 and 1600. Apparently, she elected to only run the former at Massillon Perry.

It’s easy to understand why. She wanted to conserve her energy and be fresh for the 2-mile distance.

The strategy worked, because McElroy broke her own school record, but alas her time wasn’t fast enough to place in the top-4.

Well, well, as for McElroy’s future, she’ll be attending, and running both cross country and track at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., next school semester.

What’s all this mean?

We haven’t heard the last of her by a long shot.

Ron Johnston is a Marietta Times sports writer, who can be reached at rjohnston@mariettatimes.com.