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Girls send 14 to state

Four field events, six relays, three individuals
Wrapping up the May 10 regional qualifying meet in Solon, lead-off runner Caylee Annis delivers the baton to No. 2 runner Abby Smith. Solon’s 4x4 quartet went 4:07 at the qualifier, for third; but wants to slip below four minutes at state, hoping to better their 2017 runner-up finish in the sports’ premier event.

SOLON– Senior Sophie Nicol’s track season has gone a little rough.
“I was sick. There was an injury,” she said. “I spent the longest time getting my endurance back, trying to qualify for state.”
She has run just about every distance in her four year high school career. It took the toughest one, in the state qualifier, to make her statement.
“As we got ready for the start (of the 400 hurdles), she just said ‘I’m dropping four seconds. It’s happening!” teammate Gabbi Bullard remembered hearing, as they headed for their blocks. Bullard was just a couple lanes over. True words. A minute and 10 seconds later (actually 1:09.99), Nicol was bouncing off the turf, after her best-ever time in the event. Bullard was right there, to greet her. Her own school personal best– 1:06.79– was the winner; with an automatic berth in the Class 3A state track meet. She has run a second faster, in summer meets.
Nicol, in fourth place, had to wait until the eight statewide at-large entries were confirmed, hours later.
She made the field.
“I shocked myself. Dropping four seconds is not normal,” admitted Nicol. “Definitely cool! Through the years this season has been more than I’d expected. A lot of that is my teammates; making it easier to strive for success and have fun.”
She and Bullard doubled-up in the same event last year. They have plenty of company at state May 17-19 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Solon’s girls track and field team takes entries in 14 of the 19 events to the 3A competition. Each of the four field events made the grade. Six of the seven relays are filled. There will be Spartans in three of the seven individual running events. Overall, Solon finished second in the eight-school field.
“We had a much better day than we had hoped for; with some last minute shuffling, due to injury,” reviewed coach Brent Sands. “In a couple of the shuffled events– with a little risk involved (of being left behind)– the girls came through. A couple more turned out great. Our distance medley relay team hit the cutoff. I did not expect that!”
On Drake’s Blue Oval this week will be the sprint medley relay. Caylee Annis, Molly Duckett, Abby Smith and Erin Kerkhoff put together a 1:51.07 for second place at the Solon qualifier. In the shuttle hurdle relay, Duckett, Peyton Sands, Rachael Nelson and Bullard were third, in one of the fastest fields in the state, with 1:07.83. Monet Barnhouse, Nelson, Nicol and Bullard teamed up for fifth– still qualifying as one of those eight at-larges– with 4:25.90 in the distance medley relay.
In the 4x200, it was Duckett, Annis, Khaylor Fleck and Abby Smith taking the runner-up spot, with 1:47.83. Annis, Duckett, Nicol/Sands and Kerkhoff were third in the 4x100 (51.45) and Fleck, Smith, Annis and Kerkhoff posted a 4:07.28 to go in the 4x400 relay. Iowa’s girls’ high school athletic union restricts a school to two alternates on relay lineup cards, should a team need to make limited changes, during district and state meet competition.
Besides Bullard and Nicol in the 400 hurdles, in individual events, Kerkhoff made the field with her 59.00 in the 400 meters. Fleck was fourth in the 100, but her 13.09 was one of the best non-automatic qualifiers across the state.
In the throw rings, Emily Troyer’s 40-foot runner-up toss was an automatic bid. Elli Becicka had to wait out the statewide postings to learn that her 112-3 discus throw was good to go. “Elli came in third, but her throw was right about where the cutoff is each year,” said Sands. “We felt good about it; but had to wait it out.” Smith’s 5-1 high jump and Fleck’s 16-11 1/2 long jump were each good for second, and an automatic berth.
The Spartans go to Des Moines, trying to improve on their 16th-place 2017 finish in the 64-school field at state; the largest coed high school track meet in the U.S. each year. There could still be limited shifting, as coaches try to match– and edge– entries from other schools to improve their performance, or seed in the finals of several events.
Others were so close.
“Kiersten Conway cut another 11 seconds from her 3,000-meter run time,” noted Sands. “Jenna Bachus dropped 15 seconds from her best. Calista Haasl looked real well in her open 800. And Saige Hauer ran her best 1,500 at the qualifier.” Each girl, however, finished just outside the statewide qualifying marks.
Solon hosted the May 10 state qualifying meet, and– with help of dozens of team parents and other community volunteers– successfully brought off six high school and middle school home meets in 2018.