Marshalltown’s Oden punches ticket to state

MARION – The first 8-to-10 meters of the 200-meter dash has haunted Marshalltown senior Eisha Oden all season.

Thursday, it was the difference between first and second place at a Class 4A state-qualifying meet at Linn-Mar High School.

Oden came into the meet with the fifth fastest time in the 200 and was the favorite to win but settled for second after a slow start hurt her chances at the title. Still, the Bobcat senior will head back to the state meet after her second-place tally was clocked at 26.21. Her best coming in was 25.99 but not even that time would have won the race.

“No, it’s not what I wanted. I should have done better,” Oden said. “I am very happy about getting to state though. I need to focus on my start. I need to finish a lot stronger too.”

Oden’s second-place finish was the only guaranteed state qualifier Thursday as the top two place winners in the 19 events earned an automatic spot at the state meet. The rest of the field has to wait and see if they earn one of the other 12 at-large berths handed out this weekend.

“It’s frustrating because you’re anxious, but there is nothing we can do about it,” MHS coach Chad Pietig said. “We’ll practice tomorrow like we’re in and go from there.”

Marshalltown has to feel good about its 4×800 and 4×200 relay teams. The rest of the roster is forced to a wait-and-see approach.

The Bobcats finished in seventh place out of eight teams on the day, scoring 32 points. Iowa City High took the team title with 151.83 points, while Linn-Mar was second at 139.33.

“I think the meet went really well,” Pietig said. “The effort was much better tonight than it was Monday night. I think the times reflect that.”

The Bobcats’ 4×200 relay team of Chione Brooks, Cassidy Blackford, Tabby Steffensen and Oden hit the line in third place with a time of 1:48.22. That should be good enough to advance, but Brooks will still be nervous waiting around for the official word.

“I probably won’t sleep much the next few days because that is probably the only chance I will have to get to state,” Brooks said. “We all ran our best though. We dropped two seconds off our time.”

Oden got the baton in sixth place during her anchor leg of the 4×200 but rallied the troops to third with a strong kick in the final 100 meters. Her split was clocked at 25 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever been timed at, according to Pietig.

“I just wanted to do it for my team. I just wanted to run as fast as I could and do as best as I could,” Oden said. “There’s no strategy. I just try to run as fast as I can.”

Pietig said Oden didn’t want to let her teammates down. And he didn’t expect to see anything else from his star sprinter.

“She is one of the most fierce competitors I have ever coached,” Pietig said. “If she can get it, she’ll go for it. She loves that race and doesn’t want to let those other girls down.

Rachel Blagg, Victoria Jones, Michaela Huey and Emma Runquist finished sixth in the 4×800 relay but Pietig feels like their time of 10:13.81 is good enough to advance to state. All four runners ran personal best splits. Blagg also finished fourth in the 800 and she crossed in 2:24.61.

The only hiccup of the day, according to Pietig, came in the sprint medley relay. The Bobcats sent that relay to the Drake Relays last month but the foursome came up short Thursday, finishing in last place.

“We just didn’t get that one done,” Pietig said. “We weren’t fast enough up front and put Eisha in a bad hole. She was already a little taxed and just didn’t have it.”

Oden tightened up at the end of her 400 leg and was forced to sit out the 4×1 and 4×4 relays.

“Eisha tightened up on the sprint medley,” Pietig said. “That is the only hiccup. The rest of the meet went well though.”

Pietig was happy with the throwers. He said senior Maddison Wignall threw a personal-best 105 feet in the discus on her final high school throw. That placed her eighth overall. Samantha Hughes, who started the season as a half-miler, ended up seventh in the shot put.

“I am really happy with how those two competed today,” Pietig said.


The state track meet kicks off Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Two Class 4A state-qualifying meets were postponed to today, which means the athletes will have to wait even longer to see where they stack up around the state. Linn-Mar Stadium is one of the best high school facilities in the state, if not the best. The football field/track rivals anything present in the Division III Iowa Conference. Iowa City High won four individual titles on the day, while Linn-Mar’s Stephanie Jenks swept the distance races, winning the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 in impressive fashion. Third place Cedar Rapids Jefferson won six events on the day, including five relays.