PELLA — Newton’s boys track and field team didn’t qualify a single event to the state meet two seasons ago.
On Thursday, at the Class 3A state qualifier, it took the Cardinals just two events to lock in their first spot on the blue oval.
And it was just the start of a banner night for Newton, which will be well represented at Drake Stadium next week.
“It’s really awesome,” said Newton junior Jackson Mace-Maynard, who won the 1,600-meter run and anchored the distance medley relay to a win on Thursday. “It’s so cool to be able to run with my friends at the state meet and to compete for a state title and school record with them.”
Mace-Maynard was part of Newton’s only wins. But the Cardinals claimed five automatic entries into the state meet on Thursday and then were awarded four more at-large bids on Friday.
The Cardinals were third in the team standings with 100 points. Pella won the meet easily with 194 points and Benton scored 118 in second.
The rest of the eight-team field included Bondurant-Farrar (88), Grinnell (71), Knoxville (56), Oskaloosa (53) and South Tama County (52).
The top two finishers in each event at each 3A state qualifying site advanced to state automatically. The next best eight times and distances also advanced as at-large bids.
Mace-Maynard won the 1,600 in 4 minutes, 31.48 seconds. That was the third fastest qualifying time in 3A.
Pella’s Josiah Wittenberg took off on a dead sprint just as the lead pack hit the final lap. Mace-Maynard stayed composed though and was able to get around Wittenberg later in the race.
“He made a surge early on the last lap but I hung in there,” Mace-Maynard said. “I’m grateful I was able to compete and perform in that last lap to get the win.”
The distance medley relay team won the race in a season-best 3:35.88. And the team of Nate Maki, Cody Klein, Treycen Garton and Mace-Maynard enter the state meet with the fastest qualifying time.
The other three events who claimed automatic qualification into the state meet finished second.
Maki sprinted to second in the 100 in 11.54. He finished fourth in the 200 later in the night but his time of 23.03 was good enough to secure an at-large berth. His 200 time is the 18th fastest qualifying mark in 3A.
“It felt good to qualify for both my opens and to see that my hard work has paid off,” Maki said. “And it feels pretty cool to be a part of one of the best distance medley teams in 3A. It’s fun to cheer on my teammates after I run and see them push themselves.”
Mace-Maynard opened his night in the 3,200. He traded leads with Pella’s Chase Lauman throughout the race.
They ran side-by-side for much of the final lap before sprinting the final 50 meters. Lauman won the race in 10:08.07 and Mace-Maynard finished in 10:08.08.
Mace-Maynard goes into the state meet with the 14th best qualifying time.
“We ran the same exact races. We planned out our races to be honest,” Mace-Maynard said. “The last 100 meters we got competitive. We just didn’t want to jog it out. He got me by a few hundredths of a second. It will be a good story to tell someday.”
The final runner-up finish came in the 4x800 relay. The team of Klein, Derek Beiner, Brennan Amos and Garton hit the finish line in 8:15.11, which is the fifth fastest qualifying time in 3A.
The plan for the state meet is for Mace-Maynard to take over for Beiner or Amos, who had a run-off in the race for the final relay spot.
“I wasn’t able to get my 2 flat split like we planned, but the other guys worked their tail off to get us in a good position,” Garton said. “Derek had a great lead-off leg so that helped Brennan with motivation. I knew he was going to bring it, too.”
Mace-Maynard added, “the goal was to qualify in the fast heats in our relays. That was important. The guys got it done in the 4x800 and the distance medley team ran our fastest time of the year, too.”
Maki wasn’t the only Cardinal to get good news on Friday. Three other events failed to qualify on Thursday but received at-large bids the next day.
Gavin Urias was the beneficiary of two of those bids. He was third in the 400 hurdles but his season-best time of 57.79 was easily fast enough to get in. He’ll take the 18th best qualifying time to the blue oval.
Urias also led off the shuttle hurdle relay team which placed third. The foursome of Urias, Reese Hammons, Brody Bauer and Cole Swank finished in a season-best 1:04.8 and that was good enough to secure one of the final state berths.
Urias said he stayed up all night Thursday wondering if he was going to get in or not.
“I worked really hard all season on the 400 hurdles with the goal of making it to state,” Urias said. “It felt like a dream when I got the news. It was the same feelings when I saw we qualified in the shuttle, too. It’s crazy how far that team has come from the beginning of the season. The guys put in a lot of hard work, and I am glad it paid off.”
The Cardinals’ 4x400 relay team was the final event to qualify. The team of Klein, Beiner, Amos and Garton ran a season-best 3:38.83.
Garton sprinted past a Bondurant-Farrar runner just before the finish line to lock up a bronze medal for Newton. Their time is the 17th fastest qualifying mark in 3A.
“It feels good. During cross country, I didn’t feel like I was going to get a high finish or anything,” Garton said. “But for track, I feel like we can do some big things down there. It’s exciting to be not just going but potentially doing something great, too.”
Newton’s sprint medley relay team almost got in. Zane Biondi, Colin Sharp, Maki and Garton finished fourth in a season-best 1:37.87. That was .79 seconds off an at-large state bid.
“He’s the best role player on our team,” Mace-Maynard said of Garton. “He does his job every single race. I have no doubt that he will come through for us. He didn’t run in an individual event tonight. He sacrificed that to be in four relays.”
Jared Smith (54.32) ran a season-best time in the 400 to finish fourth. Dallas King (44 feet, 5 inches) also had a season-best toss in the shot put to place sixth.
Nate Davies was the next closest to earn an at-large bid. In the discus, he had a season-best throw of 140-4, which was 2 feet shy of a state bid but further than three automatic qualifiers.
Newton’s 4x200 relay team of Biondi, Sharp, Nathan Milburn and Curtis Payne finished fifth in 1:38.8.
The Iowa High School State Track and Field Championships will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
The Newton boys will be busy on Thursday. Mace-Maynard runs in the 3,200 final at around 10:10 a.m. Maki competes in the 200 preliminaries at 11 a.m.
The 4x800 relay team steps onto the blue oval for its timed final at around 12:10 p.m. on Thursday. Maki gets back on the track for the 100 prelims at around 1:05 p.m. The shuttle hurdle relay team is in its preliminary at around 2 p.m.
Urias competes in the 400 hurdles timed final at 11:20 a.m. on Friday. The distance medley relay timed final is around noon on Friday and the 4x400 relay prelims are at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Mace-Maynard competes in the 1,600 at 11:40 a.m. on Saturday.