DES MOINES – Three weeks removed from Gateway athletes gearing up for the prestigious Drake Relays, local student-athletes are again bracing for a return to the blue oval at Drake Stadium.
And this time, the area is sending even more competitors.
In total, the programs at Clinton, Prince of Peace, Camanche, Easton Valley, Northeast and Central DeWitt will be represented in 60 events at the annual Iowa High School Athletic Association state track and field meet, which begins Thursday on the campus of Drake University.
Let’s take a look at how the boys’ division is shaping up.
Clinton River Kings (5 events)
Clinton has qualified for five events this weekend – a modest haul considering the group left Friday’s district in Dubuque with only one automatic qualifier in Ulysses Patterson.
In total, the River Kings will have two sprinters in the 400-meter dash (David Johnson and Patterson), a Drake-tested 4x400 relay (Johnson, Sean Hammond, Matt Swamberger, Patterson), distance medley (Favin Williams, Bret Myli, Swamberger, Hammond) and long jump (Patterson).
CHS coach Kellen Schneeberger said he was pleased when the official qualifying list was released to the public Saturday.
“Our conference is strong and that district (Dubuque) was great so we are really apprehensive to get anyone in,” Schneeberger said. “So the fact that it ended up working out for us is really, really exciting.”
Clinton’s highest-seeded event is the 4x400, a consistent group that has required little revising all season. A glaring example of the quartet’s focus ocurred Friday when an exchange zone became unusually crowded during Swamberger’s handoff to Patterson.
“Everything was going as according to plan up until that point, then Matt [Swamberger] went to do his normal exchange, but for whatever reason, other people became filtering in and Uly [Patterson] was boxed out,” Schneeberger said. “Matt literally had to lower his shoulder and reach over to hand it off.
“They have been our most consistent group. We haven’t had to really tweak that at all. In big moments, they come up big for us.”
Camanche Indians (11 events)
The Indians stole the show Friday in Tipton, as the team generated points, personal-records, qualifying marks and everything in between en route to a team district title.
In total, Camanche is sending a whopping 11 events to state, as Eric Campie will run the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes to complement four qualifying relay teams: 4x100, 4x200, sprint medley and distance medley.
The Indians will have nine athletes in Des Moines in Campie, Jordan Lawrence (100, 4x100, sprint medley, distance medley), Dylan Darsidan (800, distance medley), Zayne Feller (110 hurdles), Blake Hardison (400 hurdles, 4x200, distance medley, sprint medley), Cade Everson (4x100), Carson Seeser (4x100, 4x200, distance medley), Chase Grim (all four relays) and Kyle DeWeerdt (4x200).
Camanche coach Jerry Ford said the team’s blazing sprint medley performance at the beginning of the running events “set the tone” for the rest of the meet.
“I think it really sparked the team and set the tone for what he could accomplish that night,” Ford said. “Success breeds success. All night long, we had excellent performance after excellent performance.”
Prince of Peace (1 event)
The Irish boys’ team has only one athlete on its roster, Hansi Hudson, and he has punched his ticket to the blue oval.
Hudson won the 3200 run at the team’s district meet and enters the 1A division seeded 14th. Prince of Peace coach Owen Howard told the Clinton Herald last month that the 3200 event has been the primary focus for his senior runner this season.
He will take the track at 10:10 a.m. Thursday.
Easton Valley (4 events)
While the River Hawks failed to advance in any individual events, they made up for it in the relay department, as four quartets donned in black and orange will take on Des Moines this weekend.
Easton Valley’s best chance to earn a top-eight finish is in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays, where it ranks 14th and 15th, respectively. Cade Jargo, Gavin Raabe and Hudson Felkey compete in both of those, and Kolton Murphy and Porter Feugan round out the group.
The River Hawks will likely need to run a 45.20 in the 4x200 to have an opportunity to slip into the top eight teams.
Northeast Rebels (8 events)
The Northeast track program has continuously impressed this season, earning runner-up in both the conference indoor and outdoor championships behind Bellevue.
While the Rebels’ showing on Friday was somewhat underwhelming given their massive expectations, coach Mike Mattis and company will still have a more than a respectable haul of eight qualified events.
Braeden Hoyer represents Northeast’s best chance at state glory, as the senior enters the high jump as the odds-on favorite despite his third seed, which was determined by a 6-05 performance at Tipton (his season-best is 6-09). Hoyer nabbed second at the Drake Relays, falling to Grant Brouwer (Sibley-Ocheyedan) and will have a chance to go toe-to-toe with him again this weekend.
Grant Rickertsen also picked up a pair of qualifications in both the 110 and 400 hurdles. Dawson Stoll slipped into the long jump and will be seeded seventh.
Northeast’s best chance to triumph in a running event is the distance medley crew of Chad Williams, Hoyer, Rickertsen and Joe Hasken. The Rebels’ quartet enters as the sixth-ranked team after running its best time of the season (3:38.94) in Tipton. It will likely need to drop a full second to get into the mix of the top two or three teams in the race.
The Rebels also qualified their 4x400 and 4x800 teams.
Central DeWitt (7 events)
The Sabers will also have a full bus to take to Des Moines, as the program four relays and three individual events.
On paper, Central DeWitt’s has an outside chance at placing in any events, but anything goes in the postseason, especially with warm weather forecasted around 90 degrees Thursday.
The Sabers’ highest seeds come in the field events, as Logan Paulsen comes in at 14th in the high jump while Kaiden Muhl is 16th in the long jump.
DeWitt is also sending its 4x100, 4x800, distance medley and shuttle hurdle groups.