By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
CLINTON — Tony Steen found little to fault from his first meet as head coach of the Clinton High School girls track team.
From the weather to the performances, it was a more-than-satisfactory opening day.
Enjoying sunshine and temperatures in the 60s, the River Queens placed second behind Dubuque Wahlert in the Clinton Early Bird meet Tuesday on Bill Holsclaw Track.
“This is first year in three or four years that we have had decent weather at this meet,” Steen said.
There were decent times and distances, too, for the Queens, who won four events and placed second in three. Clinton finished with 71 points, trailing only Wahlert’s 108-point total in the six-team meet.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Steen, who was promoted from throws coach to head coach after June Wilden retired after a long coaching career. “The girls are practicing hard, they’re upbeat and we’re seeing output from practice turn over on the track.”
Steen is just as optimistic about the season. The combination of returning talent and newcomers make him believe a top-half finish in the Mississippi Athletic Conference is an attainable goal. The Queens showed their strength in two of their strongest areas Tuesday.
“Throws are pretty strong, and our distance group is strong,” Steen said.
Senior Kim Kaster won the two longest races, the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, to lead Clinton on the track. Neither race was all that close, either.
“It’s a good meet to see where I’m at, especially since it’s so early (in the season),” she said.
Kaster finished more than a minute ahead of runner-up Hanna Meyer of Wahlert in the 3,000, winning in 11 minutes, 28.9 seconds. She won the 1,500 in 5:20.49, beating Anamosa’s Bailey Sams by more than seven seconds. Kaster took the lead at the 100-meter mark and never relinquished it, even though she doesn’t really like running out ahead of the pack.
“I like to have people to see; it makes it go by faster,” Kaster said of running out in front. “I kind of see how I feel and how everyone else is running, then decide how I want to go.”
Tuesday, that meant taking off, and she was satisfied with her times and how she felt, which she considers keys to success.
“Given everything today, it was a good race,” she said.
With state qualifiers Erika Hammond (third in the Class 4A shot put last year) and Alayna Geronzin (13th in the discus) back, throws were going to be strong events for the Queens this year. But they got even better when two-time 1A discus state champion and shot put state placewinner Sydney Laufenberg transferred from Prince of Peace.
Hammond, a junior, won the shot put Tuesday, and Laufenberg and Geronzin finished 2-3 in the discus behind defending Class 3A state champion Maddie Nilles of Wahlert.
Hammond’s best toss in the shot (40 feet, 2 inches) beat Nilles’ best by 8 inches.
“It’s a good starting point,” said Hammond, whose best throw at state last year was 39-6.5. “I’m throwing four feet farther than my first meet last year. I did a lot of conditioning over the summer and a lot of lifting. I also worked with (former Clinton state champion) Sheena James on technique.”
Hammond said she’d like to throw consistently around 43 feet this season.
Laufenberg, a junior who also was third in the shot put Tuesday at 38-0.5, threw 125-2 in the discus. Even though that was 14-7.5 behind Nilles, it didn’t bother Laufenberg much.
“I know that early in the season probably won’t be my best,” she said. “Tony is changing my form, but by state I should have improved a lot.”
She said she was working on staying back on her right foot and getting her left foot down in hopes of reaching the 140-foot range.
Despite the new class, her goal is the same: “bringing home another state championship.”
With the addition of Laufenberg, the Queens showed their depth in the throws, too.
Geronzin won the junior varsity shot put, while Hammond was the JV champ in the discus, both with throws that would have ranked high in the varsity portion.
Clinton got one other victory. Raven Jones won the long jump with a leap of 15-11.75.
Jumps should be another strong point for the Queens, with state placewinner Elle Tubbs back in the high jump. She is on a family vacation this week and did not compete Tuesday, according to Steen.
He also was impressed by freshman McKenna Molder, who took second in the 400 in 1:01.85.
Central DeWitt and Camanche also competed in the Early Bird meet, with the Sabers (64 points) taking fourth and the Indians (47) grabbing fifth.
The Sabers picked up their lone win in the shuttle hurdle relay.
Hailey Saunders led DeWitt with second-place finishes in the high jump, the 100 hurdles and the 400 hurdles. She led the latter race until being overtaken down the final straightaway by Wahlert’s Grace Herber. Haley Sights was second in the long jump for the Sabers.
Camanche was at its best with runner-up finishes in the distance medley and 1,600 relays.
CLINTON EARLY BIRD
1. Dubuque Wahlert 108; 2. Clinton 71; 3. Davenport North 68; 4. Central DeWitt 64; 5. Camanche 47; 6. Anamosa 18.
(Top two, plus area placewinners)
Shot put — 1. Erika Hammond (Clin) 40-2; 2. Maddie Nilles (Wahl) 39-6; 3. Sydney Laufenberg (Clin) 38-0.5; 4. Courtney Schnoor (Cam) 34-1; 5. Marly Bussa (Cam) 30-5.5.
Discus — 1. Nilles (Wahl) 139-9.5; 2. Laufenberg (Clin) 125-2; 3. Alayna Geronzin (Clin) 91-4; 4. Schnoor (Cam) 85-2.5.
Long jump — 1. Raven Jones 15-11.75; 2. Haley Sights (CD) 14-11.25; 3. Amber Voss (CD) 14-8.5; 4. Taryn McLoyd (Clin) 13-9.75; Emily McElroy (Cam) 13-5.5.
High jump — 1. Lexi Waack (North) 4-8; 2. Hailey Saunders (CD) 4-4; 3. Morgan Lyons (Cam) 4-4; 4. Olivia Calvin (Clin) 4-4.
3,000 meters — 1. Kim Kaster (Clin) 11:28.9; 2. Hanna Meyer (Wahl) 12:32.9; 3. Coleen Kinney (CD) 13:51.1.
Shuttle hurdle relay — 1. Central DeWitt 1:18.7.
3,200 relay — 1. Wahlert 10:12.26; 2. Central DeWitt 11:17.84; 3. Clinton 11:26.14.
100 — 1. Laura Sherman (Wahl) 12.61; 2. Alli Osterberger (Wahl) 12.95; 5. Callaway Kinney (CD) 13.59; 6. Carlie Taylor (Clin) 13.65.
Distance medley — 1. Wahlert 4:44.29; 2. Camanche 4:50.56; 4. Central DeWitt 5:24.23
400 — Mallah Anderson (North) 1:01.38; 2. McKenna Molder (Clin) 1:01.85; 3. Alexandra Nielsen (Cam) 1:07.01; 4. Lauren O’Neil (CD) 1:07.69; 5. Emily McElroy (Cam) 1:11.59.
800 relay — 1. Wahlert 1:46.94; 2. Anamosa 1:57.29; 3. Central DeWitt 1:57.31.
100 hurdles — 1. Bailey Vance (Wahlert) 16.74; 2. Saunders (CD) 17.19; 4. Brittany Paasch (Cam) 18.30; 5. Emily Vargas (CD) 18.40; 6. Lexie Campie (Cam) 18.47.
800 — 1. Jade Romagna (Wahl) 2:27.96; 2. Kelsey Harrell (North) 2:38.25; 3. Syrene Ball (Cam) 2:39.81; 4. Jessica Riojas (Clin) 2:41.08; 5. Nicole Goldensoph (CD) 2:59.29; 6. Melanie Matyasse (CD) 3:17.15.
200 — 1. Coral Dillie (North) 26.94; 2. Marsah Anderson (North) 27.89; 3. Bailey Mensinger (Cam) 29.08; 5. Seitz (CD) 29.17; 6. Tori Gastom (CD) 30.20.
400 hurdles — 1. Grace Herber (Wahl) 1:10.67; 2. Saunders (CD) 1:12.42; 3. Paasch (Cam) 1:15.71; 5. Alexi Namer (Clin) 1:17.81; 6. Vargas (CD) 1:18.00.
Sprint medley relay — 1. North 1:59.99; 2. Clinton 2:00.10; 4. Camanche 2:04.10.
1,500 — 1. Kaster (Clin) 5:20.49; 2. Bailey Sams (Ana) 5:27.92; 4. Mensinger (Cam) 5:36.07; 6. O’Neil (CD) 5:41.87.
400 relay — 1. Wahlert 50.55; 2. North 54.01; 3. Clinton 54.46; 4. Central DeWitt 55.09; 6. Camanche 57.45.
1,600 relay — 1. Wahlert 4:19.75; 2. Camanche 4:26.87; 3. Central DeWitt 4:41.52.