Just a month ago, winning a race was a pleasant surprise to Sydney Howard.
After missing two weeks of the track season with a shin injury, the Fairfield junior was came back strong with a win in her second race back at Ottumwa’s Don Newell Invitational.
“I’m really surprised to be running like this after just coming back,” Howard said. “It’s like I haven’t missed any time at all.”
One month later, a season that started battling an injury ended with Howard confidently striding past the best competition in the state, twice. Howard earned a pair of state championships Saturday, winning the girls Class 3A 100 and 200 meter dashes on the final day of the Co-ed State Track and Field Meet.
It was a day of winning runs for area athletes at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Centerville’s Payton Busch added an individual state title to the distance medley crown he anchored on Friday with and win in the boys Class 3A 800 meter run while Pekin senior Bryce Sines took home the boys 1A 200 meter title and a third-place run in the 1A 100 meter dash.
Howard, who got Fairfield on the board with by anchoring the Trojans’ eighth-place finish, surged away from Davenport Assumption sophomore Rose Ripslinger in the meet’s shortest race. Howard won the 100 dash in a time of 12.46 seconds, winning the all-out dash by over a quarter of a second to earn the title of fastest 3A girl in the state.
Howard was far from finished, beating out a pair of Assumption challengers in the 200. Howard finished first in a time of 25.18, beating out Maddie Irmen by .26 seconds while leading Ron Huderdosse’s squad to a tie with Spencer for 11th place as a team with 23 points at state.
Busch got the winning day started for area athletes by following a similar game plan to his anchor rally in the distance medley. After barely qualifying for the event, Busch ran away from Decorah junior Kyle Hosting to win the 800 run in over two-and-a-half seconds with a time of 1:55.05.
“You just have to keep going and get past everyone,” Busch said after leading the SCC-champion Centerville boys to a ninth-place finish as a team in Class 3A with 28 points. “That’s what I did Friday and that’s what I did (Saturday).”
The area team with the most athletes at state also had the highest finish thanks to their busiest and best athlete. Sines scored 16 points on his own Saturday for Pekin, leading the Panthers to a sixth-place finish in the boys 1A standings with 29 points total.
The Panther senior finished the state meet top-ten in each of his four events and, in his last chance, finally earned his elusive state title. Sines followed up a third-place run in the 100 dash (11.51) by beating out East Mills junior Nick Pittmon in a thrilling 200 meter dash by .03 seconds in a time of 22.78.
Adam Striegel also earned points for Tri-County in both the 1A 100 and 200 dashes. The Trojan senior finished third in the 200 in time of 23.08 seconds and fourth in the 100 in 11.55.
The 800 meter run was also a successful for area girls athletes throughout the day. Fairfield junior Jessica Lamb finished seventh in the 3A race in a time of 2:19.87 while Pekin senior Celsey Conger finished ninth in Class 1A in 2:26.72.
Eddyville-Blakesburg senior Tarah Alexander used the girls 2A race to begin a big day on the track. Alexander set a school-record with a 2:17.37 time in the 800, finishing third in the race, before finishing fifth in the 1500 run in 4:58.14 as the Rocket girls finished 12th as a team with 19 points.
“We had a great state meet. This is the highest team finish since the mid 1990’s and the highest finish since the state meet was split into four classes,” E-B head girls track coach Mike Comfort said. “We had five place winners, which is an incredible accomplishment.”
“Our seniors Tarah and Nicole did a great job setting the tone and leading the team throughout the meet,” Comfort added. “Both girls smashed school records and made the most of their final opportunity in a Rocket uniform.
Two Mahaska County girls squads capped the state track meet with top-five runs in the 4x400. Oskaloosa’s MaKena Veldhuizen, Kayle Keller, Whitney Newman and Brooke VanHouweling finished third in Class 3A in a time of 4:04.38 while North Mahaska’s foursome of Jenna Lacey, Allie Ferguson, Rachel Sherburne and Mallory Boyle finished fourth in a time of 4:08.57.
The Warhawk boys also got a fourth-place run from senior distance star Tanner Wanders in the 1600 meter run in a time of 4:34.83. Fairfield senior Corbin Harwood also scored a top-five run for the Trojan boys with a fifth-place run of 15.15 seconds in the 3A 110 meter hurdles.