Girls track: Shannon, Greene County girls showcase speed at 2022 state meet
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES – Athleticism was plentiful last weekend inside Drake Stadium.
Olivia Shannon was the highlight of the three-day event May 19-21, competing in all four of Greene County’s state events. The junior snatched a pair of individual top 10 finishes, placing seventh in the Class 2A 200-meter dash and ninth in the 2A long jump while also running the opening leg in both of Greene County’s sprint relays.
Shannon’s display of versatility was a credit to the time and effort she’s put in over the last few years. The progress has been building, culminating with an impressive showing over the weekend, which included a slew of personal marks.
“Olivia is a very special athlete. She is a naturally talented kid,” Greene County head coach Derek Merk said. “Fortunately, she also has an incredible work ethic. She had spent much of the year getting herself ready for the season.
I don’t know if there was a strength and conditioning session she missed in the off-season leading up to the track and field season. She is one of those student-athletes who has figured out if you put in the time/effort, you will find success.”
Shannon was at her best when it mattered most.
She qualified for the 200-meter dash finals Thursday afternoon after running a personal-best 26.7, the eighth-fastest time in prelims. She followed that up with an even better showing in the finals, producing a personal-best 26.15 to finish seventh overall.
Panorama’s Jaidyn Sellers won the state championship with a time of 25.04 followed by Mid-Prairie’s Mitzi Evans (25.26), Denver’s Natalie Demai (25.56) and Osage’s Meredith Street (25.7).
Shannon piggybacked off her impressive sprint by placing ninth in the Class 2A long jump finals thanks to a personal-best leap of 16-06.75.
Clear Lake’s Reese Brownlee won the state championship with a leap of 18-07 followed by West Liberty’s Macy Daufeldt (18-00.5) and New Hampton’s Carlee Rochford (17-06.75).
Shannon also ran the opening leg of the Greene County’s 4-by-100-meter relay squad of Katrina Heupel, Natalie Heupel and Isabella Schroeder, helping them produce a season-best time of 52.32, placing them 22nd overall. The same quartet ran a 1:49.7 in the 4-by-200-meter, good enough to finish 14th in the state.
Producing the best marks of the season in the year’s last meet on the biggest stage in front of thousands of fans impressed coach Merk. The showing bodes well for the future.
“We had a great week at the state meet. I felt the girls performed very well overall,” the coach said. “Handoffs were not perfect but they still did a great job. I’m proud of how far they’ve come over the course of the season. They all performed great under the pressure of running in that stadium agains some of the best athletes in the state.”
Shannon’s continued progression is reassuring, as she kept on improving as the season wore on. To see her place top 10 in the 200-meter just a shade off the school record while impacting each of the three other events is once again a credit to her dedication, Merk said.
“We knew early in the season that it would probably be her ‘race,’” Merk said. “The last couple (of) weeks it became apparent she was running times that would make her competitive at districts. We were pretty confident after districts that she would be able to place at state with a low 26. Sure enough, (she) qualified for (the) finals and ran an excellent race, five hundredths off the school record.”
Shannon’s performance in the long jump was nearly as impressive. She hadn’t competed in the event since middle school, though the Greene County coaching staff felt her athleticism would propel her to great things, despite her three-year hiatus.
Securing personal-records in three out of her four events at state is a fantastic building block for next year, Merk said.
“We knew with the power and speed she had the potential to be a great long jumper,” the coach said. “She quickly picked up on coaching cues and became very committed to perfecting her technique.
She pays attention to all the little details – her running form, race strategy, and eating and sleeping habits as well. I think all these things combined allow her to have the success she has had.”
All four of Greene County’s state qualifiers are back next year, setting the stage for an even better showing.
The overall cohesiveness of the team as a whole made things that much easier, Merk said. That allowed the Rams to battle through a number of adversities, including weather cancellations, bone-numbing cold and extreme heat and wind. It was an up and down season, but the girls stayed even keel throughout.
“They were the most supportive (of one another) group of kids I’ve coached in 11 years,” Merk said. “The older girls did a great job of taking the younger ones under their wings and making them feel a part of the team. There wasn’t a meet that we went to where the girls were not out on the field cheering each other on - whether it was a 30 degree night, or the 90+ degree evening we had at districts.
It has been very rewarding as a coach to see the growth of these girls as individuals, and as a team knowing we are getting stronger each year and seeing our numbers increase across the program.”