STATE TRACK: AGWSR reaches new heights

DES MOINES – The AGWSR boys’ track and field team had quite the weekend at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships.

In fact, it was the best team finish for the Cougars in Jason Berkey’s 17 years as head coach.

Claiming two state titles, two runner-up finishes and several other top-eight tallies, the Cougars staked their claim to the third-place team trophy at Drake Stadium on Saturday.

AGWSR finished with 41 points and trailed only runner-up Wapsie Valley (58) and two-time defending champion Manson-NW Webster (69) in the final standings.

“I thought we could be right there, and you have to give our kids credit,” Berkey said. “They came down here with the right frame of mind, they competed and to get third, I couldn’t be happier for our team.”

The Cougars were leading the way after Thursday following Isaac Montes’ win in the 3,200-meter run, another win in the 4×800 relay and a second-place tally from Clay Meinders in the shot put.

Saturday, Montes returned to the track for his final race but this time came up just short of another gold medal and his first-ever triumph in the 1,600.

“The mile is his favorite race and he wanted to close out his senior year with a bang and win it,” Berkey said in response to Montes’ disappointed feeling after the race. “You have to give that other kid credit. They both ran another great race and it came down to the wire again.”

Montes beat Lisbon’s Austin Springsteen by .01 seconds in the 3,200 on Thursday, but Springsteen reversed the trend Saturday, beating the AGWSR senior by .50 seconds. Springsteen crossed the line in 4 minutes, 31.14 seconds, while Montes was clocked at 4:31.64.

Montes, who will run for Iowa Central next year, also lost to another runner from Lisbon – Conner Smock – in 2012. That difference at the line was .25 seconds.

“I think he was a little upset because he got boxed in early on in the race and never recovered from it fully,” Berkey said. “It is OK to be a little upset about a second-place finish, but he had a heck of a year and a great four years. We wouldn’t be in this position team-wise if it wasn’t for him.”

It was the second straight championship for Manson-NW Webster as it rallied with dominant efforts in the sprints and sprint relays on Saturday. Those other Cougars also placed third in 2011 and fifth in 2010. AGWSR was tied for fifth and tied for eighth in those same years, respectively.

“It was a total team effort,” Berkey said of AGWSR’s best finish in his 17 years with the program. “We only ran on our track three times this year. The guys competed all weekend and all year, too.”

In other Class 1A action on the blue oval Saturday, Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Wyatt Swanson earned his second consecutive medal in the 800 following his fifth-place finish. North Tama’s Omar Martinez also left the Jim Duncan Track with some hardware, taking second in the first heat and eighth overall.

“It’s a pretty big step up from last year, but I was hoping to get in the top three,” said Swanson, who also competes on the G-R soccer team. “It is a lot more work, and you have a lot more conditioning but usually it pays off a lot more in the end.”

Swanson got out too fast in the second heat but still maintained a good enough pace to claim a top-five tally. He was eighth last year in the same event. He hit the line in 2:04.77 Saturday, beating the second pack of runners to the line.

“I ran out of gas pretty early in the race,” said Swanson, who helped the Rebels to a fourth-place finish in the 4×800 relay Thursday. “I tried to stay up with the leaders but when I saw the scoreboard and we were at 52 seconds on that first lap, and I knew I got out way too fast. I didn’t have enough for a kick at the end.”

Martinez lagged behind the leaders for much of the two laps and even got blocked by a pack of runners on the inside lane.

After finally finding a way around those same runners, Martinez sprinted the last 200 meters and cruised all the way up to the second position in a time of 2:05.19.

“I got caught up in the mix and that slowed me down a lot, but when I had a chance to pass them on that last 200, I just kicked it in and went for it,” said Martinez, who also helped the Redhawks to a fifth-place finish in the 4×800 on Thursday and took 12th in the 1,600 on Saturday. “I had a lot of energy left, but I couldn’t find a way to pass without using too much energy so I used it all on the last 200.”

The difference between fifth and eighth place was just 1.02 seconds.

Beau Freeborn of North Mahaska won the event with a 1:55.68. Trent Verwers of Martensdale-St. Marys was the runner-up for the second straight season, crossing the line in 1:56.74. Springsteen also ran a sub-2:00 race, taking third in 1:59.98.

Martinez also competed in the 1,600 on Saturday. He hit the line in 12th place and was clocked at 4:45.86.

Lisbon and Lynnville-Sully ended up in a tie for fourth place with 36 points in the final team standings.

The Class 1A girls champion was Griswold (45 points) as it bettered runner-up West Hancock (39) by six points. Sibley-Ocheyedan and Belle Plaine tied for third with 37 points, while Manson-NW Webster and North Linn tied for fifth with 36 points.