DES MOINES — Sydney Laufenberg unleashed the best throw of her career Thursday to claim third place in the star-studded high school girls discus competition at the Drake Relays.
All four defending state champions were in the field, along with five others who placed in the top three of their respective classes last spring and five others who scored points at state in 2014.
Laufenberg and fellow Clinton High junior Erika Hammond both qualified for the finals in the event that saw Kiana Phelps of Kingsley-Pierson/Woodbury-Central win for the third year in a row and break her own meet record.
Laufenberg’s second throw of qualifying was her best of the day, 136 feet, 3 inches, which broke her personal record of 132-1, set last year for Prince of Peace when she won the Class 1A state title.
“Syd threw real well,” Clinton Coach Tony Steen said. “She’s way ahead of where she was last year.”
For all intents and purposes, Laufenberg was throwing for third place after two-time defending state champions Phelps (Class 2A) and Maddie Nilles of Dubuque Wahlert (Class 3A) stepped in and out of the ring for the first time. Nilles went 149-10 on her first try, and, minutes later, Phelps beat that by almost 10 feet.
Phelps, who led the nation last year and broke the state record with a throw of 179-7, covered 159-4 on her first throw Thursday. Not only was it the best throw of the day, it was 6 feet farther than her meet record throw from a year ago, which she also surpassed on her fifth and sixth attempts. Nilles’s first throw was her best, too, although all six of her attempts were in the 140s.
“I think when (Laufenberg) saw Phelps and Nilles throw what they threw, it was kind of, ‘OK, there’s no pressure now; let’s see what we can do and go for third,’ “ Steen said.
Laufenberg fouled on her final attempt of qualifying, then had throws of 116-3, 131-2 and 117-9 in the finals.
“Her form looked a lot better,” Steen said.
Laufenberg’s best throw also was the best among 4A competitors this season. Newton’s Sarah Kalkhoff, the previous leader and the defending Class 4A state champion, finished sixth at 129-6.
“She’s excited,” Steen said of Laufenberg’s outlook for the rest of the season, “but also knows the defending state champ still is there and she threw 140-11 last year.”
Hammond finished right behind Kalkhoff on Thursday in seventh place at 129-5. She also went 128-8 and 126-5 but fouled on her other three attempts.
“Erika was ecstatic,” Steen said. “She knew she would be close to make the finals. She was real nervous that she did not have her best. Once she found out she did make it she was excited and happy.
“She knows she has more in her. Today it just wasn’t there, but she still placed at the Drake Relays, and that’s huge.”
In other high school events Thursday, Aleenah Marcucci of Northeast placed eighth in the girls long jump and Bellevue’s Andrew Meyer placed 15th in the boys 3,200 meters
Marcucci’s best jump was 17-3 on her fifth attempt. Lexus Lovan of Urbandale won, reaching 18-5.25.
Meyer, a junior, ran the 3,200 in 9:44.20. Gilbert’s Thomas Pollard, son of Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard, topped the 20-runner field in 9:07.50.
Former Clinton High athlete Kurtis Brondyke placed third in the men’s decathlon one year after winning the event. He finished with 7,527 points, one behind runner-up Luca Wieland of Minnesota. Zach Ziemek won the event with 7,964 points.
“Kurtis looked pretty good,” Steen said. “We got to see a little bit of the end of the pole vault and all of his jav.”
Brondyke won the javelin throw Thursday at 190-10 and placed second in the discus (144-4). In Thursday’s other events, Brondyke placed fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.93 seconds), took eighth in the pole vault (14-5.25) and was 11th in the 1,500 (4:49.02), the final event.
Brondyke also won one event Wednesday, heaving the shot put 47-3. In addition, he was fourth in the long jump (23-2.5), seventh in the high jump (6-4), eighth in the 100 (11.16) and 14th in the 400 (52.35).