Mt. Pleasant athletes headed for blue oval
Running on their home track on a rainy but warm night, the Mt. Pleasant track and field teams earned 17 automatic bids to the state meet.
The girls’ team qualified in 10 events, while the boys’ earned a berth in seven. The top two finishers in each event qualify for the state meet, which will be next week Thursday, Friday and Saturday (May 16-18) on the famous blue track at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
“We performed so well under extreme pressure,” Girl’s Coach Dave Hutchcroft said.
Once again, the Panthers’ strongest events were the hurdles, as both shuttle hurdle teams not only qualified, but had a record-breaking time.
Both teams have a lot to live up to, as the Panthers won both the boys’ and girls’ shuttle hurdle at state last season.
At the qualifier, the Panther boys’ team of Cole Phillips, Blake Knudsen, Spencer White and Tommy Thorne ran a time of 57.34 to edge their rival, Ft. Madison.
“That race was awesome!” said Throne, who also qualified for state in the 400-meter hurdles (54.31 seconds). “We all hit our (person al records), and we killed the school record by almost a second. The good thing is, we can go faster.”
They’re going to need to, in order to repeat as champions in a very deep Class 3A field.
“Last night’s time was the fastest in the state that I know of, and it was fast enough to win Drake,” Boys’ Coach Scot Lamm said. “We’ll have to go at least that fast in the state meet, but still, it’s good to see.”
Not to be outdone, the girls’ team of Leslie Taylor, Amy Buckert, Hannah Becker and Kelsi Phipps ran a 1:04.25, faster than both the school record and the time that the Panthers ran to set the Class 3A record at the state meet last season (1:04.60).
“It’s really exciting,” Phipps said. “We were just trying to be conservative so we could get to state.”
“We didn’t expect that, to get that much time off — that’s a lot, especially in the shuttle,” Taylor said. “Hopefully we can keep that time for state.”
Phipps and Taylor continued their domination in the 100-meter hurdles, where they placed first and second, finishing just over a tenth of a second apart. Taylor crossed the line in 15.09 seconds, followed by Phipps in 15.21.
“We’re teammates,” Phipps said. “I’m happy for her and I’m happy for myself. Now we get to run at state, and hopefully we can be (first and second) up there.”
Taylor, who took home gold medals from the shuttle hurdle, 100 hurdles and long jump at state last year, will get the chance to defend all three titles this season.
Using just two of her four jumps, Taylor finished first in the long jump at 17-6 1/4 in last night’s qualifier.
“I’m excited about it,” she said. “I only jumped twice, but I’m satisfied with that; that’s good for me.”
Another Panther who will be gunning for a couple state medals is Chloe Haffarnan, who anchored the Panthers to a second-place finish in a very close 4x800-meter relay (9:49.98) and then fought off her competition for a win in the open 800 (2:22.56).
“I actually love this kind of weather,” Haffarnan said.
Last year, Haffarnan was part of the 4x800 team that finished eighth, bringing home a medal, but she has taken ninth place in the open 800 the last two years, so she’ll be looking to finally claim some hardware in that event.
Other state qualifiers for the Panther girls are Elaina Conrad, Taryne Shull and Natalie Myers, who are part of the 4x800 team. Conrad will also make a repeat appearance in the 1,500, in which she placed second at the qualifier (5:08.76). Hannah Becker qualified with her second-place finish in the 400 hurdles (1:08.71 — less than a tenth of a second behind the winner), and Mary Wester swept the field events with a win in shot put (38-1) and discus (113-2) to claim a spot in Des Moines.
Davenport Assumption, which is a heavy favorite to win the state meet, beat out Mt. Pleasant for the team title in the qualifier. Assumption finished with 164 points, followed by the Panthers with 156.
“We won’t be (that close) to them in the state meet, but the fact that we hung in there with them means we will be right there, fighting for the second, third or fourth (team) spot,” Hutchcroft said.
The boys’ team also finished second overall with 105 points, while Ft. Madison won the meet with 134.
Mt. Pleasant’s Emmett Wester and Justin Dunn came up with another impressive performance in the throwing events, each placing first once and second once.
Wester won the shot put with a season-best throw of 56-10, a throw that also leads the state. He was followed by Dunn (53-5).
Dunn took first in the discus (166-2) while Wester claimed the silver medal (146-1).
Both will be making return trips to state.
“It feels good to go back,” Dunn said. “I think we’ll both do pretty well.
“Hopefully I can improve on last year,” he added, referring to his fifth-place finish in the discus. “I’m going to try to place in both.”
Making his first appearance in Drake Stadium is Logan Mulford, who took second in the long jump
“It felt pretty good,” Mulford said. “I didn’t jump as well as I’d like, but I’ll take the invite to state.”
A few events on both the girls’ and boys’ side are waiting to hear if they’ll get the invite to state.
The top eight performances across the state, aside from the automatic qualifiers, will also get a trip to Des Moines, and the Panthers have some athletes on the bubble.
“I would be shocked if these girls didn’t make it,” Hutchcroft said, listing Haffarnan in the 1,500, Elinor Krieger-Coble in the shot put and the distance medley team of Tasha Vancil, Becker, Laura Hult and Natalie Ita as those he expects to qualify.
Lamm said that he expects to see Thorne and Phillips in the 110-meter high hurdles and the 4x100 team of Paul Holdefer, White, Phillips and Knudsen qualify.
Because of some delays, the athletes likely won’t find out who qualified until later than they anticipated — making for a tense afternoon for some.
“I’ve got a bunch of girls at the high school on pins and needles waiting for me to let them know!” Hutchcroft said.
For WACO and W-MU qualifiers, click here.