JOHNSTON — Despite what was another rainy day for most of us here in Iowa, the district track meets went off without a hitch, and several Newton Senior High School boys and girls advanced to the state finals in Des Moines.
For the girls, there were several top-ranked competitors coming into this meet, and four of them were able to secure automatic qualifying spots for the state finals. Others will have to wait until Saturday to find out if their times were able to place them high enough to quality. Coach Rachel Tomas is looking forward to watching her girls compete in the state finals.
“I’m very happy with how the girls gave so much effort today,” Tomas said “The girls worked hard. Their work ethic in general is fantastic. It has really been quality. For the ones advancing to state, I want them to continue to improve. Obviously, it is a goal for us to have all of them place. They all have a very competitive attitude, and that’s going to help them against the bigger schools.”
First, junior Michaela Bleeker placed second in the shot put with a throw more than 38 feet, which was much further than her qualifying throw. Bleeker was already the top-ranked Class 4A shot putter coming in, and she solidified her position with a fantastic opening throw and followed it up with another of nearly the same distance on her second attempt.
“It feels great. I didn’t make it to state last year so I had my opportunity to come back here and compete,” Bleeker said It has been a lot of the same distances all year long, and today was actually three feet better than I have been throwing. Today was a huge improvement. I have been lifting weights much harder this year, and today it paid off. At state, I’m hoping I’ll be able to throw 40 feet.”
Next there was Sarah Kalkhoff, who has been the 4A standout in the discus circle this season. She had another solid day, and with a throw of more than 130 feet, she will be heading to state looking to improve on her sixth place performace at Drake earlier this season.
Freshman Grace Coen also qualified for state in the 800, solidifying what has already been a phenomenal freshman campaign. Coen also anchored the state-qualifying distance medley team for the Cards.
On the boys’ side, there were three automatic qualifiers that will definitely be representing the Cardinals in four separate events at the state meet in Des Moines.
The least surprising of these qualifiers was easily senior thrower Derrick Hurt. Hurt recently accepted a scholarship to throw and play football for Northwestern College next year, and he showed off some of the ability that earned him such a privilege on Thursday.
Hurt placed first in both the shot put as well as the discus. His throw in the discus was 141-5, one inch past the second place finisher. While perhaps not his best throw, Hurt advanced to state, which has been a year-long goal for him.
“It feels really good to get back to state I just really wanted to get there again this year,” Hurt said. “It’s too bad I didn’t throw better in the disc today, but still to qualify for state is a really good feeling. The biggest difference between this year and last year with the discus had just probably been experience to be honest. It’s all about knowing what you’re doing and how they’re trying to coach me.”
The next automatic qualifier for Newton was hurdler Deonne Harris. Harris placed second in the 110 hurdles as his remarkable sophomore season on the track continues. The final state qualifier for the Cards was senior Dakota Hills. Hills placed second in the long jump, and he looks to have a good shot at placing at the state meet.
Due to the weather, some of the other district meets were postponed, so Newton must wait to see if the 4x400 team and the shuttle hurdle team will earn spots at state. Hills is also on the fence with his performance in the 400.
“We ran hard, and I was pleased with our efforts in every event. The kids left it all out on the track, and that is the way you have to compete at a 4A district,” coach Tom Bartello said. “It has been a weird season to say the least with the weather and four meets being cancelled. I appreciate the time energy and focus of all of our athletes, especially the JV runners who hung in all season despite the fact that they were not able to compete much this year due to the weather. I am excited for our state qualifiers and the opportunities they have to do well at state next week, and hopefully, we will have a few more.”