ALBIA — There were two races taking place on Thursday at the South Central Conference track and field championship meet.
One was the battle for SCC supremacy. For the fifth-straight year, that honor went to the Albia boys thanks to a late surge keyed on by a 1-3 finish from Drew Winke and Tyler Stringfellow in the 200 meters, leading the Blue Demons to a 139-114 win over second-place Centerville.
The other race was the race against impending storms that were tracking on a line from southwestern to central Iowa. In the end, both the Albia boys and Knoxville girls clinched SCC championships just minutes before the weather moved through Monroe County, leaving a very time for celebration as seniors like Stringfellow celebrated winning a conference team title in every year of Albia high school track and field.
“We worked a little harder as a group this year, not just as individuals,” Stringfellow said. “We got a glimpse of the success we could have early in the season. We lost some great talent in the relays from last year, but we’ve worked hard this entire season to get our handoffs down as smooth as possible.
“I hope this shows that Albia track and field is going to be a strong program for years to come,” Winke added.
Knoxville, meanwhile, prevented Albia from celebrating a SCC track and field sweep for the second-straight year. The Panthers pulled away for a 13-point win over the Lady Dees, scoring 121 points.
“I feel like we’re going to be a little disappointed just from the stand point that we weren’t able to defend the conference title after winning it for the first time ever last year,” Albia senior Hannah Isley said after winning three SCC titles of her own on Thursday. “We had a few races that didn’t go our way. Hopefully, next week at districts, we can bounce back.”
Isley, fresh off her top-10 showing at the Drake Relays, got the Albia girls off to a winning start by winning the SCC girls high jump title. Isley, who has easily cleared 5 feet throughout the season, settled on a jump of 4-10 to beat out Chariton’s Luci Swarthout and Centerville’s Abby White on Thursday.
“I feel like the conference meet always that extra edge of competitiveness that really gets you ready for districts,” Isley said. “I was really able to do some positive things in the hurdles. I was able to three-step in a way I was not able to do earlier this season. I feel like this did a lot to get me ready for next week.”
Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont’s Kathryn Gutch also secured a conference title for the Rocket girls, winning the shot put with a throw of 33-10.75 edging out Clarke’s Kaitlyn Halsband. Knoxville would take over the lead in the team standings by winning three-straight races, holding off Chariton in the 4x800 relay to edge ahead of the Lady Dees 33-32.
The Centerville boys took an early lead in the team standings following a win from Gage Carson, Quinton Koestner, Matthew McDonald and Taylor McGrann in the sprint medley relay. Davis County answered back with a winning two-mile run from Kenny Cronin of 10:40.17 before a victory in the 4x800 relay with Riley Heller, Seth Emmons, Nathan Zmolek and Ben Oliver securing a conference-championship time of 9:02.57 that put the Mustangs in front of the Big Reds 21-18.
Isley helped put the Albia girls back on top with a win in the shuttle hurdle relay with Isley, Abbey Griffin, Allison Major and Kyleigh Gutridge picking up an easy victory in 1:11.03. In the girls discus, Davis County’s Madison Stephenson scored the first conference title for the Mustang girls with a winning throw of 99 feet and 1 inch.
Knoxville would edge back in front in the girls standings thanks to Abbey Jackson edging Davis County’s Alysa Shirkey for the 100-meter dash SCC title in 13.16 seconds, giving the Panthers a 49-48 lead over the Lady Dees. The Davis County boys, meanwhile, maintained its lead in the standings while back-to-back Albia wins in the 100-meter dash by Winke (11.36) and from Cade Crall, Pete Sarver, Joe Beary and Stringfellow in the shuttle hurdle relay (1:01.42) moved the Blue Demons into second place just four points behind the Mustangs.
Garl Norman, Reegan Warning, Jaxson Sharp and Carter Batterson extended Davis County’s lead in the boys SCC standings, winning the distance medley relay. Abbey Griffin, meanwhile, put the Albia girls back on top winning the long jump with a leap of 16-7.5 before Jackson secured her third win in the 400 meters, putting the Knoxville girls ahead 71-62 after 11 events.
The Albia girls picked up a win in the 4x200 relay with Erin Heaton, Jenah McCarty, Danica Workman and Ellie Spurgin running away from Davis County to pull the Lady Dees closer in the team standings. The Lady Dees remained within striking distance of the Panthers heading into the 400-meter hurdles, when a false start on Griffin kept Albia from scoring points in the 15th of 19 events with Knoxville up 101-94.
“There’s nothing to be mad at Abbey about. There events we didn’t place as high in, but we also had some girls step up to place even higher,” Isley said. “Knoxville is a great team. They’ve got great athletes and really scored a lot of points in the sprints.”
Jackson paced the Knoxville girls, winning four SCC titles including close win over Shirkey in the 200 meters by 0.07 seconds (26.21-26.28). Shirkey would help the Mustangs secure a win in the 4x100 relay in 52.22 seconds before Davis County secured a fourth-place finish with 99 points by winning the 4x400 relay in 4:30.4.
“We had big plans all year for the 4x100. We wanted to get it to the Drake Relays and we accomplished that goal,” Shirkey said. “Being able to win a conference title does a lot for us going into districts next week.”
The Davis County boys placed third with 93 points. Cronin added a victory in the 1,600-meter run for the Mustangs to his earlier 3,200-meter triumph, racing past Albia’s Brock Ratliff down the stretch.
“During cross-country season, Brock always seemed to nip me by a few seconds every time we went head to head,” Cronin said. “I feel good about finally being able to beat him in a big race.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.