Boys' State Track: Rams powered by top five hurdle events in return to state
By BRANDON HURLEY
The first state track and field championships in two years produced plenty of highlights last week.
For Greene County’s sake, the boys’ hurdlers came through in a big way, yet again as the Rams rode a pair of top five performances to an impressive showing during the 2021state track and field championships in Des Moines.
The shuttle hurdle quartet of Nate Black, Jaxon Warnke, Bryce Stalder and Jackson Morton finished fourth in the Class 2A finals Saturday, May 22 thanks to a season-best time of 1:01.65, just missing out on the top three while Morton followed that up with a fourth-place finish of his own in the 110-meter hurdle finals (15.18).
The Rams took eight events to Drake Stadium, each of which were hotly contested, forcing Greene County to pick up the pace in order to hang with the state’s best. Head coach Chad Morton was pleased with how well several of his guys took to the Blue Oval for the first time in their career.
“Across the board there is some great competition in 2A,” the coach said. “As a team, we had a great time together down in Des Moines. It is fun as a coach to be able to spend that quality time with your athletes at such a high level event. There were memories made that will last for a lifetime.”
Spirit Lake captured the shuttle hurdle state championship in an incredibly tight final with a time of 1:01.15, squeaking by Treynor (1:01.15) while West Liberty out-paced the Rams for third (1:01.33).
The Rams qualified for the finals by winning their heat Thursday, May 20 with a time of 1:02.83, the sixth-fastest time of the preliminaries.
Spirit Lake anchor Jack Latham captured the 110-meter title Saturday with a blistering time of 14.49, out-pacing Treynor’s Sid Schaaf (14.83), who entered the state meet as the 2A leader.
Iowa Falls-Alden’s Jaden Damiano narrowly defeated Morton for third with a time of 15.12. Morton slightly clipped the final hurdle down the back stretch, perhaps ending his hopes of a top three finish.
The state track and field championships were the first sanctioned postseason event to allow fans at full capacity since the state basketball tournaments in March of 2020 due to the Coronavirus shutdown. Drake Stadium averaged somewhere around 6,000 fans each of the three days last week, which did little to deter Greene County’s performance. Coach Morton was excited to get back to spectators, especially for a group of guys who had yet to compete in front of a state meet crowd.
“I think the crowd and competition is the best part of the state track meet,” Morton said. “I think the experience lended itself to our great times in the running events.”
Greene County Bryce Stalder finished 11th in the long jump with a top leap of 20-04.75 Thursday morning while Nate Black finished in a tie for ninth in the boys’ high jump by clearing 6-01 on Friday. Clarinda’s Isaac Jones won the high jump title by clearing 6-06, edging out Southeast Valley’s Kaleb Scott (6-05). Morton also placed top 20 in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 57.73, good for 18th place May 21.
Greene County’s 4-by-200-meter relay of Nathan Wailes, Warnke, Daugherty and Stalder finished 16th overall with a season-best time of 1:33.23. Unity Christian won the state title with a time of 1:28.58.
Greene County’s 4-by-400-meter relay of Stalder, Warnke, Morton and Daugherty finished 19th with another season-best of 3:33.55 while Kingsley-Pierson/WC came away with the 2A title with a time of 3:59.53.
Josh Ewalt’s transition from middle and long distance running events to the discus came full circle during the 2A competition Friday morning. The senior finished 13th with a throw of 132-06 after spending much of the off-season hitting the weight room and working on his form, though he still spent much of the pre-season working on his running form. When the coaches noticed Ewalt could throw 120-feet with relative ease, they pushed him to move into the throwing events full time. Two months later and he was busy securing a top 15 spot in the state.
“(Josh) really wanted a medal, but as a throws coach it is absolutely incredible to see that he had so much success for only throwing the discus one year,” Greene County throws coach Andy Carmen said. “It is almost unheard of because most kids need years of practice to get to that level.”
Many of Greene County’s state qualifiers return next year, including three of their four hurdlers in Black, Stalder and Morton. Coach Morton expects even bigger things from that core group (in addition to Richard Daugherty in the relays) now that they have a taste of what it takes to excel at the state meet. Morton is confident those guys will progress in the offseason, focused on their legitimate opportunity for prestigious hardware next spring.
“I don’t have to worry about these boys,” the coach said. “They will do what they need to do to become faster and stronger.
They are also great leaders. I think they will bring others with them as they rise to the next level. (I) can’t wait to see them next year in the spring. (It) should be a special season.”
Greene County finished in a tie for 23rd overall as a team with 23 points while Underwood captured the 2A crown with 66 points, edging past runner-up Treynor (60).