State track and field: Duncan surges to title

Van Buren County senior Anthony Duncan raises his hands in the air after crossing the finish line, earning the win in the Class 2A boys 400-meter hurdles at the Iowa High School State Track and Field championships on Friday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — In his first bid for a state championship, Anthony Duncan lost the race the finish line.

One day later, the Van Buren County senior wasn't about to get beat out in a sprint for a title.

Despite a slow start, Duncan found the burst needed to get catch up with Iowa Falls-Alden junior Jaden Damiano as both runners made their way to the stretch run of the 2A boys 400-meter hurdles. With the win in sight, Duncan dashed ahead of Damiano to win by less than a second producing his best time in the race in 54.97 becoming the first state track champion since Brock Caves won the same event in 2008.

"I really did want to break his school record, but just being able to have my name right up there next to his as a state champion means a lot," Duncan said. "We don't have a lot of state champions at Van Buren County. I think there's only bee a few state champions in the last 25 years.

"I've put in the work. This is something I felt like I should be able to get if everything went right for me."

Duncan found himself fighting from behind early in the championship race as a head wind caught the Van Buren County senior out of the first turn. Damiano, meanwhile, was able to set the pace taking the lead on the front stretch of Drake Stadium.

"I was just trying to stay on pace even with the wind gusting into my eyes," Duncan said. "Once I could see and I could (Damiano), I could see we were running at a similar pace."

As the runners headed around the final turn, Duncan had moved into second place behind Damiano finding himself in a familiar position heading down the back stretch to Thursday's 2A boys 400-meter finals. In that race, Duncan and Mediapolis senior Anthony Isley were in a dead sprint to the finish with Isley ultimately edging Duncan by 0.07 seconds in the third and final heat of the race.

On Friday, Duncan was able to catch up to Damiano as both athletes cleared the final hurdle. Once again, the Van Buren County senior had to win a sprint to the finish line in hopes of winning a state title.

"When we came around the final curve and I got the wind at my back, that changed my mindset that I could still win this race," Duncan said. "When we went over that final hurdle and I saw him (Damiano) land, I knew I had it.

"I've talked to my family and my coaches about this moment for so long. I've talked to my dad, especially. He kept telling me I just needed to believe in myself and that I could do this if I believed in myself the way everyone else believes in me. It feels really good to get it done and show them that I could do it."

The 2A boys 400-meter hurdle finals also featured a 12th-place run of 57.44 seconds by Cardinal senior Archer Metcalf, who brought home a state medal of his own along with Isaac Lett, Montana Rupe and Gavin Van Veen in the 2A distance medley relay. The Comet teammates overcame some rough running during the race to post a fifth-place finish in a time of 3:37.17.

"Gavin mentioned he about go tripped up about three different times," Lett said. "Despite that, we still ran a really good race. It was exciting. As long as we got that medal, that's what I'm happy about."

Ethan Yarkosky finished 18th in the 2A boys 400-meter hurdles in 58.54 seconds joining Albia in an 18th-place preliminary run in the 2A boys 4x400 relay (3:31.57) to close out Friday's action at state. Ethan Stalzer, the anchor on that 4x400 team for Albia, was able to finish 13th on Saturday during the 2A boys 800-meter run in a race that nearly saw Davis County senior Collin Batterson go down off a trip for the second straight year in the race.

"It just looked like Collin got a little close to the runner in front of him and clipped his heel. Unfortunately, Collin got the worst of that," Stalzer said. "It's a split-second reaction. You have to think on your toes."

Stalzer was able to surge to the finish line over the final lap, posting a time of 2:00.91. Batterson finished 22nd in 2:04.17, staying on his feet despite the trip in the race for the second straight year.

"I went up and told Collin it's been great running with him over the past three years," Stalzer said. "Every single time we've run against Davis County in a meet, I've been running against him. He's made me a better runner and I hope I pushed him to be a better runner."

Ottumwa closed out the track and field season with a 20th-place finish in the 4A boys sprint medley relay. Bulldog senior teammates Donald Golec, Luke Graeve and Mason Farrington were joined by junior Javen Rominger in posting a season-closing time of 1:36.13 in the race.

"I wanted to make sure that, the moment I stepped out on this track, that I soaked it all in," Farrington said. "I appreciate everything. I appreciate being here. I appreciate the teammates that helped get me here. I appreciate that we all got to run in this and share in this together."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.


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