Now it gets serious for the Ottumwa boys and girls track and field teams.
The Bulldog squads have had about three weeks to refine their skills and fix any perceived dents in their collective armors. Their indoor track meets are in their rearview mirror and the the outdoor track world awaits. Today the Bulldogs find themselves at the threshold of their first outdoor track meet — the teams compete Thursday at the Mount Pleasant Invitational.
The girls team is filled with and ornamented by several Bulldogs who have already seen their share of success in their still-young seasons. The 4x400 team of Charlette Flanders, Ashlyn Thompson, Ellie Hammack and Sydney Strunk has already made great progress. Despite it being a shorter (only 200 meters) — and therefore harder — track to run on than the one the girls ran in their previous meet at the Iowa State campus (300 meters), they still managed to lower their time at Central College in Pella March 14. They finished with a time of 4:22.68 — the girls completed their race in 4:47.80 at Iowa State — which was good enough to net them a first place finish. The girls' superb time drew praise from Ottumwa girls coach Steve Green.
“For them to run a time faster than at Iowa State is pretty remarkable considering the track they were running on,” Green previously said.
Strunk in particular has impressed Green with her leadoff runs for the team. He was especially pleased with her performance at the Iowa State Indoor meet, where she ran her portion of the race in 60.6 seconds.
“That’s really remarkable for this early in the season,” Green previously said.
Ellie Hammack, along with Sarah Schulz, Sarah Thordarson and Erin Sheehy snared first in the 4x55 shutter relay at Central with 30.37. In addition, Hope Bitner has performed admirably in the high jump and Schulz and Katy Fish have looked strong in the long jump. The girls’ long distance runners include Sarah Keith, Sydney Cloyd, Claire Carlson and Jessie Lott.
For the boys, Cody McConnell, a star runner on the Bulldog’s cross country team, qualified for state his sophomore year; returns to the track for his junior campaign. McConnell’s sophomore season was cut short by a calf injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season. But today he’s healthy and ready to go.
“We’re looking for great things in the future out of him,” Nickerson previously said.
McConnell ran well at Mount Pleasant last season, as he finished second in the 3,200 meter run with 10:13.76 on a chilly day.
Cody McConell is joined by his younger brother Collin McConnell in the 3,200 and the mile this season.
The shuttle relay team of Seth Griffiths, Shawn Foster, Isaiah Hutchison and Terrance Smith turned in a strong performance at Pella, as it placed first with 27.30.
The Bulldog girls team returns a surplus of state qualifiers including Strunk, Kelsey Guyette, Chloe Davis, Ashlyn Thompson and Katy Fish. While the girl’s squad is brimming with runners with state experience, the four boys who qualified last season — Zach Messer, Spencer Hammack, Ben Kramer and Patrick Peters — all graduated.
Other prominent performers for the boys this season include Shawn Foster, Logan McCarty and Seth Griffiths. Griffiths and McCarty teamed up with Messer and Hammack to take first at the 4x100 relay at Mount Pleasant last spring.
The boys squad also is overflowing with runners that specialize in the half-mile including Isaac Ramos, Kaleb Norris, Jianwa Bennett, Shane Riley, Brandon Bullock, Connor Hanson and star Ottumwa wrestler Karsten Van Velsor. The group has been dubbed the wolfpack. In field events, Chris Peden and Aaron Roane are two of the main discus throwers and Jonah Wright and John Torres are two of the main shot-putters. Peden placed third in the discus (117-1.75) at Mount Pleasant last season.