STC secures four entries at state

GRINNELL – Only the top two spots are guaranteed.

But after competing in one of the tougher districts in Class 3A, the South Tama boys track team is confident they’ll be advancing several more events at-large.

Assuring themselves of at least three events at the Blue Oval, the Trojans racked up 95 points en route to a third place finish in district competition at T.J. Cranny Field Thursday.

Breaking its own school record for the second time this week, the 4×100 blazed to a winning time of 43.25 – shaving four hundredths of a second off Tuesday’s performance in Pella. The same quartet of Kaleb Davenport, Dylan Kalinay, Daryl Bidwell and Kyle Stephenson also punched its ticket in the 4×200 clocking 1:30.33, while Sam Kuhter also sewed up a trip to state taking second in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet and 1/4 inch.

Pella topped the team standings with 176 points to finish 25 ahead of runner-up Solon, while Oskaloosa (85.5) and host Grinnell (75.5) rounded out the top five of a talent-laden field.

“We went after what we needed to go after,” STC coach George Kuhter said. “Being here with Solon and Pella and all the other good teams, this is probably one of the best districts in the state. We knew there were going to be a lot of things on the bubble so we just went after what we went after and let the chips fall where they may.”

After the night’s performance, Kuhter believes those chips will fall favorably when the final district results are released.

“We’re probably going to go very deep here with individuals, so I feel comfortable with where we’re sitting.”

Though the Trojans’ 4×100 boasted the top time in Class 3A entering the meet, Kaleb Davenport had a bit of a scare when he burst out of the blocks and another shot was fired to signal a false start.

“At first I thought it was me because I felt a little twitch,” Davenport said of the false start that happened two lanes to his left – leading to a disqualification for Williamsburg.

“I looked around and was jogging off and I started to get mad. Then I saw it was lane 2 and I thought – whew, man that was close.”

The runners were led out of their blocks a second time when some issues with the timing forced a little more drama. Once things got underway, the Trojans took care of their handoffs and a strong third leg from Bidwell gave STC separation en route to the record setting time.

Though, the Trojans believe they can go faster.

“We need to work on our handoffs more because everything can be improved,” Davenport said. “We just need to keep running fast and we’ll be okay.”

The Trojans followed that plan of action in the 4×200 – crossing the finish in 1:30.33

“We were pretty confident coming in and just ready to go,” Stephenson said. “Our handoffs weren’t the best, but they were good enough for now.”

Sam Kuhter’s long jump effort was also good enough and nearly earned him a title as he finished just a quarter inch behind Oskaloosa’s Drew Richmond.

The Trojans believe several other efforts will suffice to qualify for state.

Stephenson (11.29) and Davenport (11.47) tallied a 3-4 finish in the 100, while the duo went 4-5 in the 200 clocking 23.04 and 23.14 respectively.

Clay Waterbury added a third place tally in the 800 (2:03.55), while Brady Ellenbecker followed suit in the 1,600 (4:34.03). The distance duo contributed to STC’s season-best 4×800 (8:19.25) teaming with Robert Tyynismaa and Tyler Martens for third.

Kalinay earned bronze in the 110 hurdles (15.96) and Grant Koch finished fourth in the high jump (5-10).

Regardless of which events advance to Drake Stadium, Trojan coach George Kuhter said his squad will enter with confidence.

“All the (events) we get in, we can score in,” Kuhter said. “Our seniors have high expectations and I’m not letting up just because it’s the last meet for these guys. We’re not afraid of anybody and we’re just going to run after it.”

Samantha Holtz sealed up the South Tama girls lone automatic state berth with a runner-up outing in the discus. Holtz’s heave of 117 feet and 10 inches spared just one inch over Union LaPorte’s Payton Hilton.

The Trojans finished last in the elite eight team field with 54 points though STC girls coach George Corum said it shouldn’t diminish what his team accomplished including a first-ever NICL West Division title.

“I thought as a team we might finish a little higher than eighth, but with that being said – it’s been a tremendous year for us,” Corum said. “I hope they don’t look at this as one of those bad-taste-in-the-mouth type things, because this is just like running at the state meet. The competition here was just phenomenal tonight.

Solon wrapped up the team title with 157 points – 20 ahead of Pella, while Oskaloosa (97), Benton Community (86) and Grinnell (84.5) battled for the next three spots. Williamsburg (66.5) and Union LaPorte City (57) completed the field.

While Corum thinks the Trojans have an outside shot at sending another event or two down to Des Moines, he’s excited for Holtz, who broke out of a late-season slump.

“I was more controlled in the ring,” Holtz said of her performance. “I was having a slump before, so I’m glad I got out of it. I just had to believe in myself so I could get out of it – and it worked.”

Holtz has another believer in her corner who thinks she can do bigger things on the big stage.

“She could potentially medal at state,” Corum said. “There’s a few things that she has to correct, but with every field event that’s going to happen. You just have to hit it at the right time.

“She didn’t have her best throw tonight, but it was enough to get her to state. Now she has a week to work on some things.”

The Trojans excelled in other field events as Riley Craun took third in the long jump (14-08.00), while Holtz (37-03.50) and Kaleigh Sieck (33-11.00) recorded a 4-5 finish in the shot put. South Tama’s top performance on the track came from the distance medley quartet of Shelby Bradley, Jade Rohach, Belle Tyynismaa and Kelsey Kupka, which claimed fourth in 4:29.30.

Kupka was sixth in the 800 (2:29.64) and Taylor Ellenbecker took fifth in the 3,000 (11:20.93). Maddie Bacon also placed fifth in the high jump (4-06) as the sprint medley foursome of Bradley, Sieck, Rohach and Tyynismaa (1:57.92) followed suit.

The state meet kicks off in Des Moines’ Drake Stadium Thursday and runs through Saturday.