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On to state track meet

Lady Spartans qualify relays and individuals for state
Haley Bell pushes out of the blocks at the start of the sprint medley at regional competition in Marion.

By Joe Wilkinson
Special to the Economist

MARION– Cold rain and a monster throw stand out after a runner-up finish by Solon’s girls in the May 15 regional track meet in Marion. Solon qualified all seven relays and 10 girls in eight of the 12 individual events for the May 22-24 state track meet in Des Moines.
Typical of the Solon effort? With pelting rain and temperatures in the 40s, Solon’s shuttle hurdle relay team warmed up on the soaking backstretch. The black sweatsuits of six or seven teammates were visible around the oval, too… and not much else. Across Iowa, regional meets were in the midst of a required 45-minute delay; to prevent any of them from running too far ahead of the others.
For most competitors—and fans huddled in the stands, that was a chance to head for the bus, team tent or car to get out of the cold. But with the shuttle hurdle relay next up, Emma Moss, Alexis Sands, Katie Folkerts and Audrey Lester had to be ready.
“During the downpour our girls were out warming up; getting ready for their event. You didn’t see many other competitors out doing that. I would say we won the mental battle,” proclaimed coach Brent Sands. “It was great to see so many perform very well on a less than ideal night. We demonstrated great toughness and really competed.”
Second to Dubuque Wahlert on this night, Solon heads to Des Moines, with sights on one of the top spots in Class 3A. The Lady Spartans were second to Davenport Assumption last year, with Wahlert fourth.
This week, brought the chess game; determining how to pack on a couple points here and there to compete for one of the top spots. “With all the relays going, now it is a matter of gaining confidence in the handoffs, maybe where we can get a little more aggressive in the exchange zones. Are there substitutions we need to make,” listed Sands, of the team’s to-do list.
Oh, the monster throw? Shelby Gunnells shoved the shot into orbit, at least until it touched down 43’11 1/2 inches away. That busted Cara Misel’s 2013 school record. Gunnells goes in as the number-one seed at state. With her is Cara’s younger sister Katie, who made the cut in the shot and discus, beating Gunnells’ throw in the discus at regional by inches. “I like where they are at in both events,” assessed Sands. “They have been very consistent in the shot. I expect that to continue. In the discus? They are gaining confidence, and that’s an event in which the top throwers might not put it together on a single day.”
And after a couple hard weeks in practice and on meet competition, the Lady Spartans eased up a bit this week in practice. “We’ve backed off on the distance the past few days; lighter workouts to be fresh for state,” said middle distance runner Trisha Coberly. She could use the recovery time. She’s been running two 800s and a 1,500 in the last couple meets. Teammate Molly Walkner has logged three 800s and a 1,500.
“Trisha and I joke, well, ‘first race of the night,’ each time we warm up for the next one,” laughed Walkner. “Mentally, you just have to get ready. State is spread over three days. We won’t be packing so much into so little time. Still, it’s a bigger atmosphere; we still need to focus on each event.”
Walkner’s times—in the open 800 or as 800 legs on relays—have dropped significantly into the 2:25 range at regional. “The coaches and I have been working to get that first lap ‘split’ a little faster; to make the race more even, to spend that effort more evenly throughout the (two-lap) race,” she said.
At each Class 3A regional meet, it took a first or second place (or one of the eight next best performances from across the state) to qualify. Individuals are locked into their events. For relays, substitutions are allowed, but from a pre-submitted pair of alternates.

Helping Solon to its second place regional finish were:
4x800 relay (Coberly, Katie Folkerts, Lorin Brokaw, Walkner);
Shuttle hurdle relay (Moss, Sands, Folkerts, Lester);
4x200 relay (Haley Bell, Sydney Lawson, Ira, Moss);
800 medley relay (Bell, Ira, Lawson, Jordan Smith);
4x100 relay (Moss, Ira, Sands, Lawson);
4x400 relay (Platz, Bell, Madi Shafer, Smith);
1,600 medley relay (Jess Heick, Emily Ira, Eva Platz, Walkner) “Eva Platz ran her best split of the year in the D-med,” said Sands.
100 meters…Lawson
400…Smith (and with Shafer missing qualifying by just one spot)
1500…Coberly “a great surprise in the 1,500. She ran really tough,” said Sands.
400 hurdles…Moss “A great drop in time, to pick up an automatic qualifying spot.”
High jump…Josie Durr
Discus…Misel, Gunnells
Shot put…Gunnells, Misel
Sands noted that Kristina Shelman– overcoming early season leg problems– ran a great 200, finishing third and just missing a state berth.