Eberhart takes last shot

Carie Kuehn/Clinton HeraldClinton's Madison Eberhart (center) runs the 100-meter dash at a meet earlier this season. Eberhart qualified for the Iowa High School State Track & Field meet in the 200-meter dash, and will join teammates as the anchor leg on the 4x200-meter relay.

CLINTON — For Clinton senior Madison Eberhart, districts was literally a now or never situation.

She chose the now: she qualified for the Iowa High School State Track & Field Meet in two races. One of those was the 200-meter dash.

"It's exciting. We've always been so close but I've never actually gotten there," Eberhart said. "It's nice to end at the state meet. It's going to be an awesome wrap up of all my sports."

Eberhart ran a 26.74 in the race to finish second at the district meet at North Scott High School. That automatically qualified her.

"It's really competitive," she said about the district. "Looking at the times this year, the times were faster than last year. I barely qualified. I wouldn't have if I hadn't gotten second."

She knew that the race was her chance to get to Des Moines—a feat she hadn't been able to accomplish in her four years as a track athlete.

She didn't get one event, she got two.

"I think before districts we knew that the open 200 was probably my best shot," Eberhart said. "We knew the 4x200 was going to be close but we had to cut four seconds. We did awesome to cut that down."

Knowing that she probably needed to finish in the top two spots to qualify added a little pressure to the race.

"It's really kind of scary seeing your lane assignment and seeing you're not ranked first or second," Eberhart said. "I was in lane six so I was ranked fourth. That was my third open 200 of the year and I knew I could PR. I just had to push."

But her desire to be a state qualifier is what set her apart from the field last Thursday.

"I think I wanted it more than a lot of people," Eberhart said. "I think a lot of athletes get the chance to go out there a lot, but I had never been. I knew this was one of my only shots."

The fact that she's running on the blue oval twice this weekend didn't happen by accident. It's something she's been working for since she started.

"I've learned that the results come directly from what you put into it," Eberhart said about her River Queen track experience. "You're not going to get better if you don't practice good, you're not going to improve if you don't improve at practice."

This year it's been about getting better and peaking at the right time. It happened.

"You just have to get better every time you run," Eberhart said. "I set mini goals throughout the year: get to this time, then get to this time. It all came together by districts."

This is an entirely new experience for her. She'll get her name on the state t-shirt and printed in the state programs. She'll hear the congratulations from everyone and she'll make her school community proud.

"The school has been amazing. Everyone is excited," Eberhart said. "I have people that I barely talk to come talk to me about it. It's a great family backing."

Then she'll get the opportunity to walk into Drake Stadium for the first time.

"People have told me how many people are there," Eberhart said. "I don't know if it's scary or exciting."

Even though she barely snuck in and is ranked 24th, running in lane eight, she's confident she can PR again. Improving is what she loves about track and she has two more races as a River Queen.

"I think I just love the competition and competing against yourself," Eberhart said. "I think the whole experience is going to be awesome."