There are a lot of local athletes to watch later this week as they hit the blue oval at Drake Stadium for the Iowa High School State Track & Field meet.
A lot of those athletes on the boys side hail from Northeast.
“We don’t have a lot of problem athletes,” boys track coach Mike Mattis said. “These guys have given their all for all their sports, and that includes mine. They don’t take the spring off and they’re some of the best conditioned kids out there.”
Mattis is taking ten events out to the home of the Bulldogs come Thursday. A lot of which he’s looking to place in the top 10 in.
The Rebels are very strong in the field events, usually sweeping top spots during the regular season. That includes Braeden Hoyer in the high jump, who qualified for Drake, Lucas Empen in the shot put and Dawson Stoll in the long jump.
“He’s [Stoll] been so consistent over 20 and we’re hoping for the best to come,” Mattis said. “Luke has moved into a position where he can actually score in the shot put. I would love to get those guys medals in all three field events.”
He’s also looking for big performances from seniors Kaleb Schneider and Wyatt Schmidt.
Schneider qualified for the 400-hurdles with the fourth fastest time in the state, and has a bit to prove.
“Schneider in the hurdles is ranked pretty high. He had some real rough luck last year,” Mattis said. “He wasn’t in the fast heat and wasn’t seeded but he was doing really well in his race and clipped the last hurdle and fell down.”
Schmidt has been impressive in every race he ran. He’s at No. 12 in the 800-meter run, but rankings don’t mean anything for him. When it comes time to perform, he does.
“The Cascade coach said after the district meet you know, he’s running the open 800 and he can beat anybody. I want to see him run against somebody who draws out a little bit more,” Mattis said. “He’s so loaded up at our meets lately that he conserves when he needs to conserve; he’s smart enough and experienced enough to do that.
“There’s something about that guy in the last 200-meters of any race that he smells blood, he smells blood and he goes.”
There there are an impressive list of relays going.
“We think that four of our relays have legitimate shots to earn points,” Mattis said.
The 4x800-meter relay is going in with the 10th fastest time. Mattis said he doesn’t think that’s what Andrew Hildendorf, Joe Hasken, Brandon House, and Nathan Lange are capable of.
“The 4x800 got their act together at districts,” Mattis said. “I don’t think they’re done running their best yet.”
The Sprint Medley and the Shuttle Hurdle relay both qualified, but not with their best times. The Sprint Medley had a botched hand off and the hurdlers did not run their best. Mattis says both could come out and put on a shot.
“Our goal for the shuttle hurdle relay is to get in the top half,” Mattis said. “We did not have a good qualifying time at districts, we had a hurdler miss steps but we made it in. That group has only run four times together.”
The Distance Medley is another relay that has been finishing in top slots all year. That relay is currently ranked No. 5 with a qualifying time of 3:41.71. That’s five seconds behind the top qualifier, but less than a second behind No. 2.
Camanche’s Distance Medley has been running with the Rebels all season, and that grabbed them a slot at state as well.
“It’s exciting to see that work pay off for them and to have them be that close,” Camanche coach Lisa Kunzie said. “We have even room to improve because two of our handoffs at districts were kind of ugly. If we get that down, it’s going to be exciting to watch these kids run at state.”
The Indians are heading into that event ranked No. 12 with a qualifying time of 3:44.32 from districts at Tipton.
“With that one, we were actually seeded a little higher and then we got a PR,” Kunzie said about the district performance. “We got third at districts and I know we were definitely in there and it is our biggest potential to medal.
“We’ve been focusing on trying to get the right handoffs. We’ve had the same team pretty much the whole season so that’s been a nice consistency thing.”
It is the Indians’ only qualifying relay and the only thing they’ll be running in besides the 110-meter hurdles.
“We’ve had the same few guys for most of the relays,” Kunzie said. Kyle DeWeerdt, Carson Seeser, Blake Hardison and Dylan Darsidan make up the team. “For this one in particular, it’s two freshman and two juniors. They feed off of each other. If someone is having a bad day, it kind of brings everyone down. When they work together, they’re good.
“Their times have been dropping every meet so far, so it’s obviously paying off for them.”
The Clinton boys had a bit of a tumultuous season, missing out on state qualifying in a few events. They will still have representatives in Des Moines.
One highlight is senior Ty McGruder, who qualified in four events. He will be running the 400-meter dash, the 400-meter hurdles, the 4x400-meter relay and is an alternate for the 4x200-meter relay.
Those two relays and the 200-meter dash are the only other qualifiers for the River Kings. Jaelen Boysen will be running the 200.
A lot of the relay success is because underclassman stepped up.
Clinton snuck in the last qualifying spot for the 4x200-meter relay. The team includes seniors Alex Tholen, Jared Simpson, Jaelen Boysen and then sophomore Ulysses Patterson on the second leg.
“Sophomore Ulysses Patterson, he really stepped up,” McGruder said. “He’s going to be a stud his junior and senior year.”
Another sophomore, Ethan Barry, is the alternate for that relay.
The 4x400 also qualified, clocking in at 3:31.49 at districts. That team is made up of Patterson, McGruder, Boysen and senior Kendall Austin.
“We had a bunch of people graduate last year so we had a bunch of shoes to fill,” McGruder said. “They’ve filled them really well.”
For a few athletes, this will be their first trip to state. McGruder is a returner, and hopes to use his past experience to reassure them.
After all, the first step inside the stadium is often overwhelming.
“It’s packed there. I’m going to tell them just to focus on the race,” McGruder said. “It’s just a race so block everything out and run as fast as you can.”