DES MOINES– The Solon boy’s track team won its second state team title in the past five years under head coach Mark Sovers this weekend on the blue oval of Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
Solon’s 50 points was 7.5 better than runner-up Center Point Urbana’s 42.5. Algona was third with 40, in a tightly-packed team race.
Coach Sovers’ advice to the team before the meet was to “worry about ourselves, and not what the other teams may or might not do.” The team members must have taken his advice to heart as they turned in their strongest performance of the year, recording season-bests in several events.
Throwing Coach Brad Wymer is the best around in terms of knowing how to help his athletes peak at the end of the season, and this year was no exception. In the shot put, senior Dalton Ferguson set a new school record with a toss of 60’ 3/4. His throw was the best distance of the meet, regardless of class. Teammate Danny Whitmore also recorded a personal best with a toss of 48’7 1/4. Danny finished in ninth place, just one shy of earning a team point.
The Spartans double placed in the discus with Ferguson finishing fourth at 155’8, and Tanner Wymer, who is only a sophomore, coming in at eighth, with a toss of 148’9.
The team was also well represented in the jumping events where senior Jaden Durr finished in 14th place in the high jump with a leap of 5’10. Teammate Matt Roeder went 5’8, which was good for 20th place. Emilio Villagrana sailed 19’7 3/4 in the long jump, finishing 17th.
Junior Connor Ham won both of his open running events in impressive fashion. He set a new state record in the 110-meter high hurdle preliminaries, cruising across the finish line in 14.03 seconds. His finals time of 14.16 was 3/4 of a second faster than his nearest 3A competitor and the best time in the event, regardless of class.
“It didn’t matter. I was out there against myself,” reviewed Ham. “I wanted that ‘13’ (seconds)…but didn’t get there. Next year, we’ll get that.”
Less than 30 minutes later, Ham bested the field to bring home gold in the 200-meter dash with a time of 22.14.
Perhaps the most exciting event for fans, and the most nerve-wracking for coaches, are the sprint relays, where a false step or blown hand off can spell disaster. Solon has always been known for its fine sprint relays and this year’s quartet of Jordan Wymer, Brandan Childs, Nathan Christensen and Connor Ham did not disappoint, scoring 14 points in two events. Their 4x200 time of 1:30.44 was their best of the season, good for third place and six valuable team points, Solon’s first of the meet.
“We spent a lot of time in practice (the past week) working on technique,” explained Christensen. “Changing steps, different hand positions; our take-off speed.”
Christensen delivered to senior Jordan Wymer, who made the last pass to Ham and then watched from lane one. “He got out about sixth or seventh and (passed) one after another through the race,” Wymer said of Ham.
The team knew that they needed to place fifth or better in the 4x100 meter relay in order to hold off Center Point, which was favored in the 4x400. The Spartans proceeded to run their best time of the year in that event as well, for a second place finish, in a time of 43.28.
“I told them from day one it didn’t matter what anyone else did, we had to take care of what we did,” Solon coach Mark Sovers said. “I knew we could do enough, if we were at our best, to be at the top at the end, and that’s what we did.”
When asked about his team’s success in relays he added, “Any time you can build your team around relays you get more people involved and more people invested, and when you get good people invested, good things happen.”