DES MOINES — The first day of the 2015 State Track Meet at Drake Stadium found several athletes from Perry and two from the Woodward Academy enjoying plenty of success.
Perry senior Scott James was the first of the local athletes to reach a goal after finishing in a tie for seventh place in the high jump after successfully clearing 6 feet, 3 inches — tying his second-best effort.
“I wanted to make sure I earned a medal and I did,” James said. “It would have been nice to get a new record for me and jump 6’5 but it just didn’t happen, but I can’t say I am unhappy with 6’3 and a medal.”
James will run Friday in both the distance medley and 4×400 and said having placed in one event would be helpful when it came to his running duties.
“I think it will take some of the nerves away,” he smiled. “Now that I have one medal I would like another one and maybe we can run a great time and then, who knows?”
“I know he really wanted to jump 6’4 again and maybe go higher, but there is no reason for him to be unhappy with 6’3” Perry boys head coach Ben Coy said. “He (James) has not had his best efforts here (2014 state meet, ’15 Drake Relays) but today he went out and tied his second-best height and I am proud of him.”
Cal Zahn of Webster City won the high jump by clearing 6’5 in less attempts than Cameron Cantrall of Spencer and Alec Hayes of Atlantic, who were 2-3. James and Blair Brooks of Marion tied for seventh after clearing 6’3 on their third attempts; Nhail Billiew of Denison-Schleswig cleared 6’3 on his first jump for fourth and Xavier Adams of Maquoketa on his second for fifth.
Bluejay senior Keegan Pfau will join James for the two Perry relays that run Friday and will compete in the 1600 Saturday. He ran the 3200 Thursday and finished 13th in 10 minutes, 4.5 seconds for 13th place. Pfau had entered the race seeded 16th.
“I thought he looked strong for his first six laps, then for the last 800 (meters) you could see he was tightening up,” Coy said. “All-in-all I thought he went out and ran a smart race. I know he was a little disappointed because he wanted to place and break that 10-minute mark, but he still has three events that he can go out and get a medal in.”
Gilbert’s Thomas Pollard defended his state title by winning in 9:07.41. His championship time of 8:50.43 last season is the all-time Iowa best.
Also in action for Perry on day one at Drake Stadium was the girls 4×800 team of freshmen Sidney Vancil and Breanna Peneger, junior Mariah Duffy and sophomore Emma Olejniczak, who ran the event in that order.
The Jayettes had set a new school record of 10:15.85 at the state qualifying meet to enter as the 21st seed. On Thursday they ran 10:15.88 to move up to 20th.
“This was almost a carbon-copy of the district (qualifying) meet,” Perry girls head coach Matt Hardy said. “The splits for each girl was almost identical.
“This is the best competition we have run against and is the best surface we have run on, so I thought we might drop down to 10:08,” he added. “This is a big stage, and sometimes there is shrinkage when you get out in front of this big crowd but they all ran well. Hopefully this will motivate them to get in the weight room, get stronger and be ready to come back next year.”
If Hardy was hoping his quartet would be motivated, he need not have been concerned in light of the comments from all four on the infield of the track just after their race.
“We were not even together a month ago,” Duffy said, referring to the current lineup. “We wanted to be faster and this shows us how much work we need to put in.”
“We still have at least one more year together and we want to come back,” Vancil said. “I think we each know we could have done better and it definitely makes we want to be here next year.”
Olejniczak said the foursome had learned a lesson Thursday.
“Everyone here is so fast,” she said. “It just means that instead of dropping time (to 10:15) we need to start there and drop from there.”
Penenger noted the difference of running in a stadium with loud and cheering crowds encircling the track.
“That was a lot of fun, hearing all that noise the entire time,” she smiled. “I liked being here, but like the others I want to come back next year and do better.”
Gilbert won the state title in 9:30.14, with former Perry student Grace Gibbons running the anchor leg for the Tigers.
The Woodward Academy had two sprinters in action Thursday, with Terence Lewis placing ninth and Rashawn Porter 16th in the 100 dash. Lewis finished in 11.24 seconds — just .03 off a spot in the finals — while Porter crossed in 11.48.
Lewis returned to the track later in the session to win his heat of the 200 in 22.27 seconds. His time was swift enough for the third-seed in Saturday’s finals, which will ran at 12:25 p.m.
The crowd had been brought to their feet in the heat before Lewis’ when Isaiah Trasil of West Burlington Norte Dame ran a new Class 2A record time of 21.76, breaking the 21.78 state best clocking of Britt’s Jeff Nielsen set back in 1980.