STATE TRACK: Blagg finally gets her chance on blue oval

DES MOINES – Last season didn’t end the way MHS sophomore Rachel Blagg had envisioned.

After running well throughout her entire freshman campaign, she lost some focus before the state-qualifying meet following the passing of her grandmother.

She ended up not having the chance to run on the blue oval but reached that individual goal a week ago when she qualified as at-large runner in the Class 4A 800-meter run.

Finally running at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships, Blagg finished 22nd in the two-lap race with a time of 2 minutes, 26.31 seconds at Drake Stadium.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I ran at the state meet,” said Blagg, who also ran the opening leg of the MHS 4×800 relay Friday. “Everyone keeps saying ‘wow, you made it to state.’ I am really happy to be able to run here but it just hasn’t sunk in yet.”

MHS coach Chad Pietig has always know that his up-and-coming distance star had the talent and ability to be with the best runners in Iowa.

“We are happy to be getting her back next year because we think she has quite the future,” said Pietig. “We think she is right on the verge of that 2:20 barrier. And it is a tough barrier to overcome.

“It is a confidence thing and an experience thing for sure. We have seen her run 2:22 and 2:23 so we know she is capable. She just has to believe.”

Blagg admitted to being nervous this weekend, running on the biggest stage in Iowa high school track and field. But once she got going Saturday, the nerves went away.

“It is a fun experience once the nerves finally go away,” said Blagg, who missed qualifying for the state cross country meet by one placing in the fall. “This experience will motivate me to work hard and go into practice with a goal. I just need to think about that 2:20 and go for it.”

West Des Moines Valley’s Lydia Saggu repeated as the 4A champion, beating out Linn-Mar’s star freshman Stephanie Jenks. Saggau crossed in 2:12.91, while Jenks hit the line in 2:13.30. Jenks won the 3,000 earlier in the week and took the 1,500 title Saturday as well.

“Rachel was pretty tense before the race and it looked like the nerves were getting to her,” Pietig said. “It was her first time there and I am sure she got rattled a bit. She started out really well and her first 200 was great. She thought she went out too fast and slowed down. Hopefully she learned a little bit about what it is going to take to do well here.”

Waukee (80) finished two points ahead of Pleasant Valley (78) to take the Class 4A team title. Two other CIML teams were third and fourth, respectively, as Dowling Catholic ended up with 63 points, while Des Moines Roosevelt was right behind with 62. Cedar Rapids Jefferson was fifth with 56.

Linn-Mar won the boys title with 72 points, easily distancing itself from runner-up Iowa City West’s 57 points. Waukee (53), Cedar Rapids Kennedy (51) and Iowa City High (35) rounded out the top five.