STATE TRACK: Crowning Cougars

DES MOINES – Isaac Montes had been there before. And it wasn’t a feeling he wanted to have again.

The AGWSR senior was edged out at the line a year ago by Lisbon’s Conner Smock in the 1,600-meter run, and he was in the same situation Thursday at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium.

This time around though, Montes came out victorious as the Cougar senior reversed his fortune in the 3,200, edging Lisbon’s Austin Springsteen by one hundredth of a second on his way to his first-ever individual state championship.

“I do feel like I can outkick anyone,” said Montes, who was second the mile and ninth in the two mile last year. “I have been working hard on the final parts of the race. I went too early last year and I wanted to make sure I had enough reserves to get it done this year. I wanted this one badly. I wasn’t going to lose in my senior year.”

The Cougars were the talk of Class 1A after a first day that drew more than 12,000 fans.

Montes led off the 4×800 relay team that also claimed a championship, and sophomore Clay Meinders was second in the shot put. Montes’ running mates in the relay were Miguel Reyes, Kendal Gast and Sully Hofmeister.

Those three top-two finishes have the Cougars on top of the team standings with 28 points. Manson-Northwest Webster is second at 20 points, while Lisbon has 18 points in third.

“I am very proud of the kids,” AGWSR coach Jason Berkey said. “We felt like we had a good chance to score some points on Thursday and the kids exceeded my expectations. These guys had one goal, and that was to win.”

Montes’ winning time in the 3,200 was 9 minutes, 46.13 seconds, while Springsteen crossed in 9:46.14. It was the first individual state track and field championship for the Cougars since Cody Eichmeier won both the 200 and long jump in 2002.

“It feels really good,” said Montes. “This was the one race I was most worried about.

“My plan was to go hard in the final 800, but (Springsteen) stayed with me. He accelerated a lot on the final 400 and I just didn’t know at that point. But I knew I wanted it more. I worked really hard to get this win. I am really happy.”

Berkey said the relay championship for the Cougars was the first in his 17 years at the school. He had been a part of about a half dozen second-place finishes though.

“We have kind of gotten the monkey off our back,” Berkey said. “Hopefully we can keep going and get a few more medals the rest of the weekend. It will be tough to win the title. There are some really good teams here. The kids believe though. So anything can happen.”

The winning 4×8 relay time for the Cougars was 8:21.08, which was more than three seconds ahead of runner-up North Iowa.

“I can’t really comprehend it yet,” said Gast. “Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would run at state and win an event. I am sure when I stop and think about it, it will hit me. But it’s a great feeling.”

Montes kicked off the relay and gave the baton to Reyes with a big lead. Reyes and Gast continued to spread out the distance and then Hofmeister brought home the victory with plenty to spare.

“I grew up with Sully and Isaac so this feels great,” said Reyes. “I have known these guys forever. It is more special when you can share this with teammates. We are going to talk about this when we get older.”

Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s foursome of Chase Clark, Trevor Trunck, Eric Stoakes and Wyatt Swanson took fourth and North Tama’s team of Omar Martinez, Jacob Watson, Max Mogorean and Dalton Hulme took fifth. The Rebels (8:25.81) held off the Redhawks (8:25.84) by 3 hundredths of a second.

“I was just trying to catch that small group ahead of me and I eventually caught them on the last 200,” said Swanson. “I saw North Tama coming up behind me so I just had to kick it in those last few meters.”

BCLUW’s team of Bruno de Rosa, Branden Storjohann, Isaac Novak and Derek Coulter ended up 13th.

Both Meinders and Gladbrook-Reinbeck sophomore Zach Pierce competed in the shot put. Pierce edged out Meinders at the conference meet but the AGWSR sophomore turned things around Thursday, finishing in second with a throw of 52-5 3/4.

The fact that AGWSR had already won two titles helped motivate Meinders even more.

“That helped a ton, I knew we won the two mile, and then I was over here warming up and I heard we won the 4×8, and I was just like, ‘Shoot, I can’t be the loser who gets second, I had to get first,’ but … I feel great,” said Meinders. “I really thought I was going to (win). I felt great. I really thought I was going to pull away. I’m not too bummed that I got second but you’ve got to improve to get first.”

Pierce did not make finals and ended up ninth but had a personal-best throw and school-record toss of 47-9 1/2.

“I was just looking to have fun and just do my best; root on other teammates,” said Pierce. “I think it’s great because he’s (Meinders) throwing 52 and I need to do that. That’s my goal, to go 1-2 with him and have battles with him the next two years.”

The winning throw came from Lisbon’s Keegan Tritle, who came through with a 53-1/4 on his sixth and final throw.

Watson and Hulme teamed with Mitchell Boerm and Jacob Wrage in the shuttle hurdle relay, but the Redhawks failed to make the finals and finished in 15th overall with a time of 1:02.88.

“It was a pretty good time. Not our PR though, and I think we needed that to qualify,” Wrage said after the race. “It just wasn’t our best run.”

Finishing well behind Montes in the 3,200 were BCLUW’s Cole Silver and Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Tyler Bovy. Silver was 14th and Bovy ended up 17th.

Montes also will run the anchor in the distance medley today at noon and compete in the 1,600 at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. He said the 3,200 is his least favorite race, and that he dropped out of the open 800 at districts to run with his teammates in the 4×8.

“It feels better than the first one because it was with my teammates,” Montes said. “I came in pretty confident. All week we talked like we had a chance to win this thing. We had to just dig down deep. It hurts a lot, but they pushed it hard and they showed it was not all about me.”

Action at the blue oval continues today at 9 a.m.