Courier sports staff
---- — DES MOINES — Prior to late-season 6-7 jumps by Luke Arrowood and Reese Iversen, Fairfield's Daniel Schwartz had spent most of this season perched at the top of Class 3A as the top performer in the high jump.
For most of this season, the Davis County girls track team has stood on the top of the standings of team points.
Both held true to form on the opening day of the Iowa High School State Track and Field Meet Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Schwartz capped a spectacular day in the field for area athletes, scoring a state championship in his final high jump competition of his prep career.
The Fairfield senior won by 4 inches over Iowa Falls-Alden senior Nick Jensen, clearing the bar at 6-6 to clinch the Class 3A boys high jump crown.
Schwartz's championship was part of a great day of field event competition for area competitiors on Thursday, which was jump started in the afternoon by Davis County sophomore Kate Birchmier. The Mustangs' two-time Drake Relay and state qualifier finished third her first of two events with a toss of 40-5.25.
Birchmier's best event is yet to come today as the Mustang sophomore will compete in the discus this afternoon. When she does, Birchmier will be looking to win an individual state title as well as help bolster the Mustangs' very high hopes of a team championship as Davis County owns the first day lead in team points with 19, edging out Hudson and West Branch for the advantage heading into day two of the meet.
The Mustangs were bolstered by two more top-five finishes before day one was over. Davis County's 4x800 relay team of Shelby Graves, Maggie Hougland, Addie McKee and Ally McClure finished second in a time of 9:50.68 while sophomore Hayleigh Sharp finished fourth in the girls 2A long jump with a leap of 16-11.
Like Davis County, Fairfield had plenty of success to spread around from the track to the other field events. The Trojan girls saw senior Sydney Howard return to state, sight of a pair of championship runs last year in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Howard showed the ability to defend both titles on Thursday, qualifying with the top preliminary time in both events. The Trojan sprinting star dashed home in the 100 prelim in a time of 12.64 seconds and came home first in the 200 in a time of 25.48. Howard will look to defend both titles Saturday.
Fellow Trojan senior Sidney Baumann came home in seventh in the 3A girls discus with a toss of 120 feet. Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont also scored points on the boys side on Thursday as senior Drake Menius had an impressive fourth-place leap of 21-4 in the long jump.
Other top-10 finishes in the field on Thursday included a seventh-place toss in the 3A boys discus from Centerville junior Micheal Firkins with a toss of 154-4. Davis County senior Wyatt Garmon finished 10th for the Mustangs in the boys 2A shot put with a toss of 48-1.
Gwynne Wright will be getting to see plenty of the big blue oval in her trip to state. The Pekin freshman star, who will run in four of the longest girls races over the next three days, opened the day for the Panthers in a successful manner as Wright came home in fifth place in the 1A 3,000 meters in a time of 10:56.82.
Pekin senior Madanda Baker scored the Panthers' second top-10 finish in as many events, following Wright's run on the track by scoring a ninth-place finish in the 1A girls shot put with a toss of 35-3.5.
The Albia Blue Demons first of four relay teams also hit the track on Thursday evening, scoring a top-10 finish by coming home ninth in a time of 8:15.84. Oskaloosa sophomore Skyler DeJong also brought home a top-10 finish in the 3,200.
Three Ottumwa girls went out to compete on Thursday afternoon in three different individual events. Hope Bitner was the first Bulldog to step up for competition, literally, as the sophomore was the first in line to compete in the girls Class 4A high jump.
Bitner's first state meet apperance finished with a jump of 4-8, good for 21st place.While Bitner was competing in the high jump, another first-time Bulldog state qualifier was competing on the track. Freshman Erin Sheehy finished ninth in the opening heat of the girls 4A 200-meter preliminary, finishing 23rd overall in the prelim in a time of 27.56 seconds. Sheehy will compete again today as a part of the Bulldogs' 4x200 relay team.
Senior Sydney Strunk will also compete today in relay action, running as part of Ottumwa's 4x400 team that will look to qualify for Saturday's final. Strunk finished 19th on Thursday in the girls 4A 400 meter days, coming home in a time of 1:01.08 in her final individaul race of her Bulldog track career.