PELLA — Although it may have been odd with snow still on the ground, the Collins-Maxwell-Baxter and Colfax-Mingo track teams opened the track season on Friday.
Indoors, that is.
The Raiders and Tigerhawks’ boys and girls squads competed in the Bulldog-Panther Classic, which was hosted by Pekin in the Kuyper Athletics Complex on the campus of Central College in Pella. The meet included only three individual field events, plus eight team races.
After finishing fifth in Class 2A at the state meet and narrowly missing out on the Drake Relays in the shot put last season, CMB junior Zach Samson showed he has more to prove this season Friday night.
Samson turned plenty of heads as the event’s first competitor, eventually finishing with a personal-best throw of more than 55 feet. That throw topped his best throw at state last season by about four inches.
“You just have to approach it trying the best you can,” Samson said. “You can only throw against the wall in the gym so many times and just simulate things the best you can.”
Samson’s contemporary in the shot put, sophomore Patrick Girard, also turned in an impressive night with his first-ever throw of at least 50 feet. Sophomore Bryce Kemp also recorded a personal-best in the long jump with a distance of more than 20 feet.
“We were very pleased with our efforts throughout the meet,” CMB boys coach Neil Seales said. “Given that two-thirds of our team is either freshmen or sophomores and we had only seven practices prior the meet, I thought all of our guys competed hard.”
The Raider boys will be back in action Tuesday at an invitational in Ames. Although the team is young, a steady indoor season will undoubtedly help in the challenge of replacing a strong graduated senior class, which included 110-meter hurdles state champion Josh Zeiser.
“I thought I did pretty good and it was a good start for now,” Samson said. “Hopefully we can build on that next week and the weeks to come and just keep getting better throughout the season.”
CMB’s girls also competed in the meet, but no results were available for them at press time. They will return to Pella for a second indoor meet on Thursday.
This time last year, Colfax-Mingo senior Connor Hainer was still recovering from an ACL tear he suffered during football season. And after Friday’s performance, it is pretty safe to he say he’s trying to make up for lost time.
Hainer led off the Tigerhawks’ 4x200 relay with an impressive split of 22.7 seconds, but his highlight for the meet was in the long jump. In his first jump since his injury, Hainer recorded a distance of 21-4.75 to break Walt Cortez’s 44-year-old school record. Considering he ran only track events after recovering last year, it was a pretty good debut in the event.
“I felt good,” Hainer said. “I was recovering from my ACL last year, so I was hoping to get back at it this year. My times are slower and distances are lower in indoor, so I’m looking forward to getting outside.”
Other highlights for the C-M boys include a third-place finish by the 4x400 relay team of Hainer, senior Byron Johnson, sophomore Tim Blood and freshman Jake Lietz, as well as a distance of 45-10 in the shot put for senior Chad McLain, which became his personal best throw by three inches.
Senior Jaden Van Dyke, who qualified for state in the 800 last season, missed the meet due to a cold and fever. However, C-M boys coach Matt Barkalow said he had to convince Van Dyke to stay home.
“It was a great chance to run a bunch of our younger guys, and had some seniors step up as well,” Barkalow said. “I’m very happy for Connor. He rehabbed and worked incredibly hard to get back to form.”
With 36 girls on the roster this season, the largest coach Zach Tomas has ever had, the Tigerhawk girls entered Friday’s meet with some lofty goals for the season. Some of those goals were met with early success, as multiple competitors turned in career-best performances.
“The two indoor meets at Pella are always very competitive because you see schools from all four classes,” Tomas said. “Our times were very comparable to last year, and I feel we are moving in the right direction.”
Three of those personal bests came from Rachel Forschler in the 200-meter dash, and Jade Lewis and Kayla Van Dusseldorp in the shot put. The Tigerhawks also got a third-place finish by the 4x200 relay team of senior Jessica Kolo, sophomore Erin Earles and freshmen Jessica Albright and McKinzie Tjaden. Mari Gonzales also finished sixth in the high jump, clearing 4-6.
“We are a very balanced group with some great leaders,” Tomas said. “As we get into better shape and move outdoors, I believe this team will have a great season.”