DES MOINES — Juniors Erika Hammond of Clinton and Aleenah Marcucci of Northeast turned in runner-up performances Friday at the Drake Relays. Both had the top performances among athletes from their respective classes of competition.
Hammond tossed the shot put 44 feet, 3.75 inches on her first attempt, her best effort. Solon’s Shelby Gunnells, the defending Class 3A state champion, hit 44-7 later on her first attempt and went 45-5.5 on her third try for her best result. The rest of Hammond’s throws were between 41-11.25 and 43-4.25. Kate Birchmier of Davis County placed third (43-1).
”That gives her confidence that she can go out there and win it,” Clinton Coach Tony Steen said, referring to the Class 4A state meet. “We talked about having a good first throw and making everybody chase us. There were a couple of little, minute form and technique things she didn’t follow through with that kept her from throwing her best, things we know we can work on.”
The shot put competition was held inside Drake Stadium, which added a different dimension for the high school throwers who are used to competing in an area north of the stadium.
Besides putting them in front of many more people, they can’t have as much contact with coaches, since coaches must stay in the stands.
”When you’re inside, even at 8:30 or 9 in the morning, it was pretty full in there,” Steen said. “In that place, they probably think all eyes are on them, so there’s a little nervousness there. Once she got her first throw in, I think she realized it’s not that bad.”
Clinton’s other junior thrower, Sydney Laufenberg, placed 16th. Her three throws traveled 36-4.25, 38-1.75 and 37-0.5.
”It was not her best, but she threw better than she has ever thrown out there (in Des Moines),” Steen said.
After qualifying sixth for the finals of the 100-meter hurdles, Marcucci came close to winning the finals but settled for second
”It was a real nice day for her,” Northeast Coach Pat Healy said. “She wasn’t happy with her prelim, but she was so far ahead of everybody and it turned out to be a slow heat. She wound up in Lane 6 (for the finals), but that worked out right because the girl who won was in Lane 5.”
Defending Class 1A state champion Mallory Vawter of BCLUW won the race in 14.97 seconds, while Marcucci (15.051) edged Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Abilene Ranschau (15.060) for second.
”(Marcucci) thought she had first at first (because) it was so close,” Healy said. “It looked like all three hit the line at the same time. (Vawter) caught her on the last hurdle.”
Marcucci also ran on Northeast’s 400-meter relay unit that placed 40th in 51.71. Haleigh Hughes, Rylee Dickey and Tierra Hildebrandt ran the other legs. It was their best time of the season; the previous best was 51.94.
“They weren’t happy getting seventh in their heat, but their time was two-tenths of a second better than their best this season,” Healy said. “They’re still sitting pretty good in 2A.”
Camanche’s Thomas Brantley had the best finish among boys from area schools. He qualified fifth in 14.84 seconds and then placed sixth in the 110 hurdles in 15.02. Connor Ham of Solon won in 14.31. Bellevue’s Robert Schroeder placed 19th in 15.57.
Clinton’s boys competed in the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays, the latter two of which were won by Cedar Falls (1:29.74 in the 800 and 3:23.57 in the 1,600). West Burlington/Notre Dame won the 400 in 42.79. Camanche also ran in the 400 and 1,600 relays.
The Indians’ quartet of Jeremiah Jones, Brantley, Brady Beal and Will Seeser took 15th in the 1,600 relay in 3:28.41, while Clinton’s Marquis Robinson, Theo Harris, Amani Larson and Quavon Jones were 17th in 3:28.62.
That same foursome from Clinton placed 20th in the 800 relay in 1:32.17.
In the 400 relay, Camanche’s Beal, Seeser, Blake Bialas and Brantley took 62nd in 45.09, while Clinton’s Jones, Robinson, Harris and Jimmy Bell were 70th in 45.47.