Schools from around the area are in Des Moines for the Iowa High School State Track & Field meet, getting ready for the first day of competition on Thursday.
For the Clinton girls, three individuals and a relay team are all getting ready to compete.
“I knew we had some girls who could do some stuff,” coach Tony Steen said. “The 4x200 has been running well all year, we just knew we had to have that breakout meet and we did.”
The River Queens didn’t know right away what was going to happen. Madison Eberhart picked up a second place finish in the 200-meter dash, earning an automatic qualifying spot. Other than that, they had to wait until the full list of qualifiers was released to know if their times and throws were good enough.
“It’s long, it’s nerve-wracking,” Steen said of the wait. “I had girls texting me all day asking if it was out yet. I said as soon as I know, you’ll be the first ones to hear. It’s nerve-wracking when you aren’t one of the first two.”
Joining Eberhart and the 4x200 relay team (Meghan Hill, Montaya Ford, Tahlicia Bailey and Eberhart) will be Alex Laufenberg in the discus and Sarah Goldensoph in the shot put.
“Alex has a good chance of placing, but we could surprise in the shot put, too,” Steen said. “Sarah has had a couple of good practices so we’ll see how that goes.”
Athough Laufenberg finished fourth at districts, her qualifying throw of 117-07 was good enough to have her ranked No. 9 in the state. Goldensoph is ranked No. 20 in the shot put.
Steen had other relays that were close to qualifying as well. He’s particularly happy because he has such a young team. The improvement was apparent all season, with times dropping every single meet.
“Our team, we did really well. I was pleased,” Steen said. “I took them out for Whitey’s after districts and I told them how proud I was of the team and how they grew and athletes and individuals. They work really hard and that’s why they’re here.
“This group of kids, freshman to juniors, could be interesting and fun. I look forward to some big things the next few years.”
Another team who had more qualify than they may have expected was the Northeast Rebels. That’s certainly nothing to complain about.
“We qualified people I didn’t think we would,” Northeast girls coach Pat Healy said. “That’s one of the best surprise meets that I’ve had.We’ve always had good runners, but this year I thought I’d get a 4x800 through, a 100 hurdler through, possibly a 100 and 4x100.”
He got all of those through, plus another 100-meter dash runner, a 200-meter dash runner, two 800-meter runners and a shot put thrower.
He said one of his favorite moments at districts was when Carly Hasken and Miyah Messerich went 1-2 in the 800-meter run.
“That’s probably the first time in a long time I jumped up in air, started screaming, hand in the air,” Healy said.
Hasken and Messerich also run the 4x800 relay. Hasken ran at districts with a head cold, but didn’t let it slow her down.
“When you’re running the 800 a cold is the last thing you want to have,” Healy said. “Her mother said should she really be running three 800s, and even Carly said I don’t know if I want to run the open 800. When the chips are down, Carly has always come through. She did this time.”
Alecca Gray and Neveah Hildebrandt also swept the top two spots in the 100-meter dash. Gray will be running the 100-meter hurdles and the 200-meter dash aloneg with the 4x100-meter relay.
Claire Abbott will be the thrower and lone field event for the Rebels. She’s ranked sixth in the state with a qualifying throw of 38-00.5.
“Our big surprise of the year has been Claire Abbott,” Healy said. “She started out the year throwing 31 or 32. Then she went 35, then 37, then at districts she went 38.”
Healy has a lot of young athletes competing, some heading to Drake stadium for the first time. He isn’t too worried.
“We’ve talked to them a lot about it and many of them have siblings and have been out there to watch them run,” Healy said. “We’re hoping to get a couple points out there. We have a lot of young kids and I want to get them that experience out there.”
The Rebels are certainly set to impress, ranked in the top 15 in five of the qualified events.
“These are outstanding kids,” Healy said. “Great sportsmanship and I couldn’t be prouder of this group of kids from the freshman up to the seniors. The seniors set the tone and they always have at Northeast. It’s just a program that we’ve developed and the next group knows what to expect when they come in.”
Rounding out the girls side of the Iowa qualifiers is the lone athlete heading to Des Moines for the Indians: freshman long jumper Emy Seeser.
“I’m really excited,” Seeser said. “But I’m nervous, too.”
Seeser has a good chance to place, though, sitting at No. 9 in the long jump with a qualifying leap of 16-05. She’s jumping where she wants to be right now, despite taking some time to get her feet under her.
“I started off the season really slow,” Seeser said. :I was jumping 13 and 14. Last year I built up, too. When I went to the middle school state meet I got the best jump by like a foot. I was hoping that would happen this year too and it did.”
The Indians were very close to qualifying times in a couple of relays, but fell just short.
“I wish I could have my teammates with me, the girls,” Seeser said, making her first trip out to Drake Stadium. “We were really really close, but unfortunately we didn’t get to go.”
Competition begins Thursday. Seeser jumps Thursday for Camanche. Eberhart runs for Clinton on Thursday, while Laufenberg and Goldensoph will throw.
The Thursday schedule for Northeast includes Abbott in the shot put, Gray in the 200 and the 100, Hildebrandt in the 100, and the 4x800-meter relay.