PELLA — Even with teams short on numbers or dealing with early-season injuries, three area teams’ indoor track finales proved to be worth the trip to Pella in the long run.
The boys and girls teams from Colfax-Mingo and Collins-Maxwell-Baxter and the girls from Prairie City-Monroe joined a plethora of other schools at the Kuyper Athletic Complex on the campus of Central College Thursday night to get one last shot at competition before the outdoor season begins later this month.
Both teams from Colfax-Mingo were short-handed due to a driver’s ed event, but the fact that the teams still competed was a small victory in itself for both coaches.
“Seven years ago, that would’ve meant we had like two guys to come to the meet, so it’s nice to be able to run full,” C-M boys coach Matt Barkalow joked.
Even with the small numbers, the Tigerhawk boys still managed a number of top finishes. Senior Connor Hainer continued his impressive indoor performance in the long jump, taking first with a distance of more than 21 feet. Freshman Blake Summy also competed in the event and earned his first varsity medal.
C-M also had some relay success, as the 4x200-meter team of Hainer, Summy, Byron Johnson and Jaden Van Dyke finished second, and 4x400 team of Hainer, Johnson, Jake Lietz and Chad McLain took third. Hainer got the 4x400 team off to a huge lead, but Fort Madison caught up to the anchoring McLain on the final lap. After losing his stride and falling, McLain fought his way back up and battled across the finish line.
“I think he lost stride and got his head a little too far over his body,” Barkalow said. “He ran last year, but that was the first time he had run this year. He really stepped up tonight so I’m pleased with his effort. He could’ve just rolled off and not finished, but he got right up.”
Hainer, McLain and Van Dyke will actually continue their indoor seasons next week when they take part in the Dickinson Relays at the University of Northern Iowa.
The meet provided a nice turnaround for the Tigerhawk girls, who showed plenty of improvement from their first meet in Pella last week. Sophomore Rylee Thompson highlighted the team’s night, medaling in the shot put and matching her personal best throw from last season.
“Compared to last Friday when we were here, it was like a total 180,” C-M girls coach Zach Tomas said. “Things went so much better, and some of that was probably confidence, and I think we see some of our best competition at these indoor meets.”
Also standing out for C-M was freshman McKinzie Tjaden, who led off the 4x200 and California mile relays with what Tomas called state-worthy times. Her performances in the indoor season are one of the examples of the depth Tomas is looking forward to displaying when the team has its first outdoor meet at PCM on April 2.
“In my four years, we’ve never run well indoors,” Tomas said. “I guess I don’t ever get too concerned because at the end of the year, we’re always where we need to be.”
Also missing some numbers due to a school play in Maxwell, both Raider squads ended their indoor seasons on an interesting note.
The smaller numbers didn’t bother girls coach Jerry Meinerts, however, as he was approaching the past few meets as a way to get the girls back in shape after a lack of practices.
“We’ve been running in hallways, so it’s nice to get out on a track where they can run at top speed, but that’s also when you’ll get tight quads and hamstrings,” Meinerts said. “We’re not where we want to be outdoors yet, but we did a fine job competing tonight.”
The Raider girls did most of their damage in the long jump, as both Alex Broderick and Bridget Hurley medaled on the varsity side. Maddy Poage mirrored her teammates on the junior varsity side by earning a medal of her own.
Boys coach Neil Seales took a similar approach to the night, as he was missing around 12 athletes.
“We practiced right up until today so we were tired coming in, but we ran hard and competed,” Seales said. “We treated tonight kind of like a glorified practice, but I’m really happy with the effort.”
A lack of practice isn’t affecting shot putters Zach Samson and Patrick Girard, however, as they both continued their strong indoor seasons Thursday. They likely won’t need to do too much adjusting when the outdoor season rolls around, and Seales is hoping to say the same for the rest of his team.
“We missed so many practices because of the weather so it’s hard to tell, but I don’t think we’re where we want to be,” Seales said. “We’ve got a lot of guys on a big squad, so it’s been tough to get them all on the track. But we’ve been really pleased with the effort, so if we get another week-and-a-half of good work, we’ll be farther along for outdoors.”
For the relatively young members of the PCM girls team and their young coach, Thursday was another blessing before the Mustangs’ first home meet later this month.
“I think it went well, and it’s very nice to get another meet in this early,” first-year coach Bridget Burns said. “Overall we have a very young team and some girls who are not very familiar with track, so I think these meets are getting them more comfortable with who’s doing what on our team.”
Some of the more experienced athletes on the team were sure to show their skills off, however. Junior Abbi Gilson earned a personal best in the shot put to continue her solid indoor season. In the relay events, the Mustangs finished second in their heat of the 4x400 thanks to a strong anchor leg by junior Lexi Kain.
The Mustangs’ two indoor meets were apparently enough for Burns, who has been trying to ease some of her athletes into competition. The real deal will come soon enough, as PCM will host a girls’ meet on March 26 and an even larger coed meet on April 2.
“We didn’t set a lot of goals because we’re still trying to figure out who’s doing what, so my goal was to just get every comfortable and into competition,” Burns said. “We definitely met the goals of getting out there to compete, so now we have to see where we’re going from here.”