DES MOINES - “Wow.”
In all the excitement, hugs and cheers of winnings its first track state championship in more than two decades that was all Glenwood head track coach Mark Starner could muster.
“This just a tremendous group of seniors,” said the coach after composing himself during Saturday's trophy presentation on the track at Drake Stadium. “It was a total team effort. Sometimes track and field gets overlooked as being a team sport, sort of like wrestling. For us, this is a testament to what our kids are able to do.”
A team effort to be sure. After qualifying 20 athletes in a school-record 15 of the 18 events at state, Glenwood scored in 11 events for its 78 team points. Central Clinton DeWitt was the Class 3A state runner up with 67 points. Waverly-Shell Rock was third with 64 team points.
“That's a real testament to our depth and how hard our kids work. Yeah, you need (Kyle) Wheeler's and (Johnny Fullers) and (Eliot) Lincoln's and people like that but we have a lot of guys that do a lot for us you whose names you don't see who shined for us. Hopefully those kids get recognized for what they did to get us here.”
Glenwood opened its first day of competition at state with a gold-medal run by Johnny Fuller in the 3,200-meters and never looked back. The Rams led the 3A point standings 24-20 over Sioux City Heelan after day one and no team got closer than three points the rest of the state meet.
Fuller, who had yet to win gold at state in three previous tries, bested second place Ryan McMahon of Algona with a time 9:17.10 in the 3200. McMahon did come back to nip his Ram rival to win gold on Saturday in the 1600. Fuller placed third.
The Rams nearly had a second gold on day one but the 4x800-meter relay team of Eliot Lincoln, Jared Cook, Mark Abrams and Wheeler was edged by Spirit Lake Park and its state record time of 7:49.07. Glenwood placed second with a time of 7:57.10.
Wheeler added to the first round success in the 400-meters with a third place medal.
The boys shuttle hurdle relay team of Ian Eflin, Cole Darrow, Mitch Bowden and Michael Lawler ran the second fastest qualifying time in the preliminaries before placing second in Saturday's final.
It was more of the same for the Rams during Friday's session.
Derek Jones set a new personal best in the 400-meter low hurdles with 53.94 to place third. Darrow also set a personal-best in the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 5 inches to place fourth.
The Glenwood distance medley relay team of Eflin, Darrow, Lincoln and a strong anchor leg from Fuller to pull off a third place finish.
On Saturday, with a total of eight gold medals up for grabs on the final day of state track, Glenwood didn't grab one but it continued its balanced point grabbing.
Wheeler, the Drake Relays champion in the 800-meters earlier this spring, entered the day as the favorite. After nearly 600-meters of running side-by-side with Spirit Lake Park's Alec Baldwin, the two appeared to collide near the finish line leaving Wheeler stunned as Baldwin crossed the finish line first.
“I know Kyle was disappointed,” said Starner. I don't think it was intentionally. I think Kyle was more upset he had a chance to win it and he didn't get there.”
Fuller followed up Wheeler with a third place showing in the 800-meters.
Eflin next ran a 15.24 in the 110-meter high hurdles to place fourth. The five points gave Glenwood a 68 to 54 lead in the team standings over Waverly-Shell Rock with two events left for the Rams.
Glenwood wouldn't rest on their lead. Fuller didn't get his long distance sweep, placing third in the 1,600-meters, but his six points and the three earned by the 4x400-meter relay team's sixth place finish cemented Glenwood's first state title since 1990.
Other than missing out on points in the discus, shot and high jump, Starner said his team performed at or better than they had all season when it mattered most.
“A month ago we put our plan together and a lot of that depended on what Central Clinton-DeWitt was going to do and our guesses kind of worked out. We thought we had a chance in the high jump and a point or two in the discus and if we could get in the top four or five in the 4x400-meter relay, we'd be in great shape. And it worked out. We got a lot of strong finishes from so many guys.
“The big thing for us is I think baseball gave some of these guys a taste of it. They came into the locker room in February saying they wanted to go for a title. I said, wait a minute, we have a lot or work to do to get there. But month-by-month, meet-by-meet, fortunately for us, we stayed focus and we're able to do it.”
Throughout the season, Starner had received dozen of emails from former Glenwood track athletes wishing the Rams luck and reminding them of their past glory. Starner said that proved good motivation for his team.
“We can read about those guys and see them in books, but to see them and get a message from them that they can do it, it was nice and the kids bought into that.”
The last time Glenwood won a state title not a single member of this team was born yet and Starner was a recent graduate a Sidney High School and a freshmen in college.
“I ran track and I read about those 1989 and '90 teams. I watched from the outside and if you were in southwest Iowa you knew about Glenwood track. We like to we're continuing the tradition. It's good to be back and we'll enjoy it.”
Iowa State Track Meet
Class 3A Top 10 Team Results
1. Glenwood, 78. 2. Central Clinton, 67. 3. Waverly-Shell Rock, 64. 4 Sioux City Bishop Heelan, 48. 5. (tie) Wahlert Dubuque, Spirit Lake Park, 45. 7. Knoxville, 36. 8. Clear Creek-Amana, 35. 9. Algona, 33. 10. Solon, 30.
Glenwood Place Winners
Discus – 11th place, Clayton Giesting, 148'; 22nd place, Dan Gorman, 128' 2''.
Shot put – 21st place, Giesting, 45' 4.75''.
Long jump – fourth place, Cole Darrow, 21' 5''.
3,200m run – first place, Johnny Fuller, 9:16.90.
4x800m relay – second place, Glenwood (Eliot Lincoln, Jared Cook, Mark Abrams and Kyle Wheeler), 7:56.10.
4x200m relay - 23rd place, Glenwood (Grant May, Lawler, Darrow and Joe Blankenship), 1:36.70.
400m relay – third place, Kyle Wheeler, 49.87.
Shuttle hurdle relay – second place, Glenwood (Michael Lawler, Mitch Bowden, Cole Darrow and Ian Eflin), 59.09.
400m low hurdles – third place, Derek Jones, 53.94.
110m high hurdles – fourth place, Eflin, 15.24.
Distance medley relay – third place, Glenwood (Eflin, Darrow, Lincoln and Fuller), 3:34.25.
800m run – second place, Wheeler, 1:55.71; third place, Fuller, 1:56.10.
1,600m run – third place, Fuller, 4:23.14.
4x400m relay – sixth place, Glenwood (Lincoln, Kaufman, Jones and Wheeler), 3:25.29.