GRINNELL — A look outside the window will confirm it is still technically winter in Iowa, but the spring sports season for Newton Senior High School kicked off Friday when the track and field teams competed in their first meet of the season.
Even though neither team has had the opportunity to practice due to recent severe weather conditions, there were strong showings for plenty of the athletes, which suggests a fruitful track and field season for the Cardinals.
“The meet went pretty well considering we hadn’t been on a track yet this season,” boys’ coach Tom Bartello said. “I was really pleased with all the performances. It’s really an outstanding day for us to just get an idea of where we are without having practiced at all.”
Senior and previous all-state shot put thrower Derrick Hurt took first place in the event with a throw of 50 feet, 1 inch. He was a foot and nine inches clear of the second place finisher.
“It’s hard not to be impressed with Derrick,” Bartello said. “That was the first time all year he stepped into the throwing pit and he did a great job.”
Newton also got a strong showing out of long jump competitor Dakota Hills. Once again, it was his first time in a long jump pit all season and he did not disappoint. He took second in the event with a jump of 19-10 ¾.
“Dakota had not jumped whatsoever leading up to today. So that was another big bright spot for us,” Bartello said. “He had one jump in warmups and after that he was good to go. It was a phenomenal effort.”
However, the standouts were not limited to the field events for the Cardinal boys. The team also excelled in several track events, particularly the open 400-meter dash, the 4x400 and the 60-meter hurdles.
In the 400, Hills took the top spot and his fellow Cardinal runner, senior Andrew Clements took third in the race.
“That was a really great race for us. I thought the guys really did a great job of racing smart,” Bartello said. “Andrew got a late charge by the kid from Pella, but he did a good job of holding him off to take third.”
Newton also took second in the aforementioned 4x400 with a team of Deonne Harris, Jarom Williams, Clements and Hills. They finished less than three seconds behind Pella with a time of 3:44.42.
Harris also excelled in the 60-meter hurdles for Newton, finishing first in the event with a final time of 8.69 seconds. He edged out Caleb Klocko and Collin Schlitz of Norwalk by less than a second.
All totaled, the Newton boys won three events, finished second in three events, third in two events and had one fourth place.
“This was a really good starting point for us,” Bartello said. “It’s nice to have a good baseline to work with going forward because this is without having practiced or anything like that. I think we’re going to have a great season.”
Newton girls’ coach Rachel Tomas knew it might be a struggle coming into their first meet of the season. The weather made it tough on both teams, who have had limited to no practice time.
“Overall, I was extremely pleased with how the girls performed,” Tomas said. “The first meet of the season can always go either way, but when you factor in the crazy start to the season with us not being able to practice much, it’s really a terrific start for our girls. There were a lot of great performances. Obviously, there is still plenty we need to work on, but once again this was a great place to start.”
On the girls’ side of the event, there were plenty of strong performances to speak of as well. Sarah Kalkhoff took first place in the varsity shot put event with a throw of 35-0.25. She was more than a foot clear of the second place finisher from Knoxville. Also, Madison Bagnall took third in the even with a throw of 33-2.
Another big-time standout for the Cardinals was Grace Coen. She took the top spot in the 1500-meter event, winning by more than seven seconds. Coen was also the anchor on a second-place relay team in the 4x800 meter event. That relay team consisted of Alexis DesPlanque, Hailey Coy and Skylar Seals.
DesPlanque also ran the first leg of the Cardinals’ first place 4x400 relay team that edged out Pella by one tenth of a second. The other runners for the Cardinals were Taylor Fisher, Sydney Jenkins and Amber Karsten. Karsten also took second in the 400-meter dash. Another impressive showing from the Cardinal girls came from Anna Barr. Barr took third in the 400 with a time of 1:08.09.
“I felt like the 4x200 was our best team run,” Tomas said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to work on hand-offs so to have a run like that was very reassuring for me. The other events I was happy to see our girls perform so well were the 4x800, the 400 dash and the 4x400. Hopefully, this is a meet we can build on going forward.”