OTTUMWA — Like the postal service, the Ottumwa track and field team has been ready to go to work no matter the conditions.
Last Thursday, the Bulldogs were bound for Iowa City to compete in the state qualifying meet despite cold, windy conditions that eventually forced all 32 meets in Iowa to be postponed a day. The results of the following day's Class 4A qualifier allowed 29 athletes combined between the OHS boys and girls track teams to continue working this week in preparation of the Iowa High School State Track and Field championships.
On Tuesday, after taking a team photo, the Bulldogs ran through rain drops that saturated Bob Warren track and as well as the athletes and coaches. Thursday, the OHS girls and boys take to the blue oval inside Drake Stadium on a day so hot the state has already issued a heat advisory, allowing spectators to enter with unopened water bottles or empty refillable water containers in hopes of staying hydrated.
Neither rain, nor heat, nor any major program is going to stop Ottumwa from finishing off a successful track and field season. Each team will compete in 11 different events looking to rack up points and place highly against the biggest schools in Iowa.
"The thing I noticed, even last week at the state qualifying meet running against outstanding teams from Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, is that we were not intimidated by anybody," Ottumwa head boys track and field coach Jim Nickerson said. "It doesn't matter what a person competing against us has on the front of their chest. We don't care, we just go out and compete.
"We've competed against Waukee this year. We've competed against Dowling. We've competed against the best teams around. This is not the type of team that gets off the bus at a meet, looks around and says "Ooh, look who's here." We just go out, do the best we can and hopefully beat the best."
The Bulldog boys will be on the track first with Connor Sutton, Eli McDanel, Issac Eaton and Jonathon Bossou scheduled to run in the third of six preliminary heats in the boys shuttle hurdle relay at 3 p.m. Later Thursday evening, Blake Foy, Javon Martin, Aytonn Bar-Shimon and Dante Salomon compete in the 4x800 relay finals.
"Now that the season is coming to an end, we're really ironing out the finer details," said Bar-Shimon, who will also run for OHS in the 4x400 relay on Friday and with Salomon in the 800-meter run on Saturday. "The times we produced at districts are times that, when it matters the most, proves that we're going to be ready to compete in the biggest meets of the season. It's a matter of, as a team, all of our guys running the best that they can at the same time in the same races. We know we're just as good as all the other schools whether it's a Johnston, an Ames or a Bettendorf. You put our best times up against theirs and we're just as good.
"I don't want to forget about the past, but I want to focus on competing. If we compete as well as we're capable of, anything can happen."
While the Ottumwa girls have just nine athletes heading to Des Moines, the Bulldogs have the type of talent that could result in one of the best weekend's at state in program history. Ottumwa's top qualifying relay, the 4x800 of Carollin Mellin, Meghan Coulter, Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch, will look to get OHS off to a winning start Thursday afternoon after qualifying with the second-fastest statewide time last Friday of 9:36.35. Dowling Catholic, who had the fastest time of 9:36.24, may be without top 800 and 1500 runner Kelsey Schweizer after suffering an injury during practice this week.
"A lot of the performances we're going to have throughout the state meet is simply watching the Ottumwa girls do what they do best," Ottumwa head girls track and field coach Jim Schlarbaum said. "The girls are used to showing up and performing at the highest level. They know that, to run at this meet is a privilege and that they're going to represent Ottumwa really well."
For Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch, the opening day of the state track meet could be a very special one. After potentially running for a state championship in the 4x800 relay together, the twin sisters will compete together in the 400 meter dash where Alli Bookin-Nosbisch is seeded second after a time of 57.5 seconds run at Iowa City last Friday while Grace Bookin-Nosbisch finished eighth at state in the same race last year.
"I'm kind of excited for it all. Every single race brings something different to the table," Alli Bookin-Nosbisch said. "We just have to run as fast as we can and let the team race will take care of itself.
"It's a blessing to make it in every event we qualified for," Grace Bookin-Nosbisch added. "We just want to go up there and show everyone what Ottumwa is made of. I think people forget about us around the state, but we're determined to go up there, show people who we are and why we deserve to be there."
OTTUMWA TRACK AND FIELD STATE QUALIFIERS
Aytonn Bar-Shimon (800 run, 4x400 relay, 4x800 relay, sprint medley relay alternate)
Dante Salomon (800 run, 4x800 relay, 4x400 relay alternate, distance medley relay alternate)
Jonathon Bossou (110 hurdles, 4x100 relay, distance medley relay, shuttle hurdle relay, 4x200 relay alternate)
Isaac Eaton (400 hurdles, 4x400 relay, shuttle hurdle relay)
Connor Sutton (400 hurdles, shuttle hurdle relay)
Caleb Barndt (4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, distance medley relay, sprint medley relay)
Andrew Cole (4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, sprint medley relay)
Elie McDanel (4x100 relay, 4x200 relay, shuttle hurdle relay, sprint medley relay)
Charlie Welch (4x200 relay, 4x400 relay, sprint medley relay, 4x100 relay alternate, distance medley relay alternate)
Austin Fountain (4x400 relay)
Blake Foy (4x800 relay)
Javon Martin (4x800 relay, distance medley relay)
Gatlin Menninga (Distance medley relay, 4x400 relay alternate)
Jesus Jaime (Shot put)
Colton Carnahan (4x100 relay alternate)
Dominick Delehoy (4x200 relay alternate, sprint medley relay alternate)
Taylor Barndt (4x800 relay alternate)
Andres Hernanez-Pool (4x800 relay alternate)
Jesse Vanderheiden (Shuttle hurdle relay alternate)
Kameron Jones (Shuttle hurdle relay alternate)
Alli Bookin-Nosbisch (400 dash, 800 run, 4x400 relay, 4x800 relay)
Grace Bookin-Nosbisch (400 dash, 800 run, 4x400 relay, 4x800 relay)
Carollin Mellin (1500 run, 4x400 relay, 4x800 relay, distance medley relay)
Kierra Bishop (4x400 relay, distance medley relay)
Meghan Coulter (4x800 relay)
Maria Horn (100 wheelchair, 800 wheelchair)
Anne Guest (High jump)
Chloe Schneckloth (Distance medley relay)
Katie Nelson (Distance medley relay)