AUSTINTOWN - The United and Salem boys track teams found their chance at state glory in the form of relays.
Looking to advance to next week's Division II state meet, the Eagles and Quakers raced fiercely Saturday at the Austintown Division II regional meet, and through two relays, both teams are heading to state.
"We all book it whenever we run this race," United sophomore Alex Phillips said. "This has been our best race of the season, and it's best that we compete in so we had to push it."
Phillips, along with senior Mike Martin, junior Riley Fillman and sophomore Tyler Powers finished third in the 400-meter relay with a school-record time of 43.05 seconds to earn a spot in the Division II state meet.
"I think we're all pretty happy right now," Fillman said. "We just broke our school record with that run, and we've been working to get that all year."
The Eagles' high finish sends Martin, Fillman and Phillips back to the state after finishing seventh in Division III last year.
"After going last year, all we wanted to do was go back in state," Martin said. "We've got our new guy (Powers) this year, and he's been trying to fill those shoes and he's doing really good, and we've been working as a team."
The addition of Powers helped the team, and Powers was not only excited to help break the school record, but also get his first taste of state competition.
"I knew I was going to have to step up for being the new guy," Powers said. "We had been working on our handoffs. This is what it has been all season for us, just trying to make it."
The Eagles also earned a shot put spot as Lucas Cooper's third-place finish in the shot put (a personal-best 52-6 1/4) gave him more opportunity for next week. Cooper already qualified Thursday after placing second in the discus.
"I'm very excited to make it," Cooper said. "I would like to see more in discus, but I'm feeling pretty good."
Meanwhile, the Salem boys 1600-meter relay team earned its state spot Saturday as the team of seniors Marcus Crittenden and Dan Rumsey, junior Cameron Turney and freshman Ethan Bailey finished third with the second-fastest time in school history (3:22.31).
"It's just an amazing feeling knowing that all the work we've put into this has paid off," Turney said.
The Quakers' third-place finish came from a fast run from Crittenden, who went to state in 2012, but missed last year's state meet due to injury.
"It feels like sophomore year all over again," Crittenden said. "Bailey was just able to keep up the pace and Turney was able to make the turn."
The victory was sweet for the quartet, which persevered after Saturday's earlier struggles for a state spot. The Quakers finished fifth in the 800 relay (1:30.09), seventh in the 400 relay (44.43), and senior Caleb Quinn's heartbreaking fifth-place finish in the 110 hurdles (15.48), placing fifth by one-hundredth of a second behind Brandon Rassavong of Lake Catholic.
"Those two relays didn't do as good as we had hoped," Crittenden said. "Our region is one of the hardest in Ohio, and the competition was very strong today."
The team may have been down, but Rumsey - who ran in the 800 relay with Crittenden, Turney and senior Haedan Panezott - was more determined to earn their spot.
"It felt bad since we fell back into fifth place," Rumsey said. "We were all hungry, and we just came here to give it all we got. I definitely wanted to give the juniors, sophomores and freshman the opportunity to experience a chance at state."
Also advancing to state is Josiah Ross and Zach Robbins of West Branch. Ross earned his spot with a fourth-place finish in the 300 hurdles (40.24), while Robbins punched his ticket as he took second place in the high jump (6-8).
The shot put season for West Branch senior Andrew Filp and junior Jake Zinni, however, came to a close Saturday. Filp missed his final state chance as he placed fifth (50-11 1/2), while Zinni fouled on his three attempts.
United senior James Kataro was 12th in the 1600 run (4:47.40).
The Division II state meet will take place Friday and Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in Columbus.
United's old school record in the 400 relay of 43.27 seconds was set by the 1990 state runner-up team of Jim Huff, Brent Hall, Ed Hendricks and Kevin Courtney. The Eagles finished second to state champion Youngstown Mooney at Ohio Stadium.