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Lady Spartans load up for state meet

DeWITT– Fans following the Solon girls at the state high school track meet this week won’t have much time to slip out to the concession stand for strawberry smoothies. There will be Solon entries in 17 of the 19 events. Adding to the crowd are double qualifiers in five events.
That lineup emerged from what seemed like a mini-state meet May 10 at DeWitt. Dubuque Wahlert (160 points), Solon (157.5) and Davenport Assumption (132) fought it out for the top three spots, while West Delaware (79), Western Dubuque (77), Maquoketa (46), Central of DeWitt (44.5) and Anamosa (41) rounded out the 2012 field, one of six Class 3A qualifying meets going on across Iowa.
The team totals become a side story of sorts, though. The primary goal is to be in position to score at the May 17-19 State Track Meet, competing against schools they may have seen only on paper through the year. Finish first or second in an event, or lock in one of the 12 ‘next best’ finishes out of those statewide contests and you’ve punched your ticket. “As crazy as it may sound, I wasn’t really surprised by our number of qualifiers,” said Solon coach Brent Sands. “I thought we had a good chance at all of them. There were some that were a little more of a stretch and they came through.”
The Spartans depended on what’s worked all year; winning in their specialties and assembling solid relay lineups to tack on more points. Junior distance runner Lauren Benzing won the 800 (2:18.95), the 1500 (4:51.37) and the 3000 (11:02.87) and with teammates Jessica Brimeyer, Karly Kramer and Jadyn Miller anchored the 1600 medley relay to runner-up in a tight finish (4:17.84). Senior sprinter Emily Bransky won the long jump (16 feet, 6.5 inches), was runner-up in the 100 (12.78), fourth in the 200 (25.95) and anchored the 4x200 to another second place finish (1:47.29, teamed with Brimeyer, Mallory Carr and Kramer).
Sophomore Rylee Smith was second in the 100 hurdles (15.96), with senior Jennifer Shelman fourth (16.89). They earlier teamed with Kari Vance and Caitlin Knoedel for third in the shuttle hurdle relay. Smith also led off the 4x100 (with Kramer, Brimeyer and Emily Ira, 51.71), which finished third, and the 800 medley (with Brimeyer, Carr and Miller) for fifth, in 1:54.97. In the 4x400, it was Carr, Miller, Kramer and Madi Shafer teaming up for a 4:11.99 sixth place. The 4x800 was fourth in 9:59 (Carr, Smith, Alyssa Rickels and Molly Walkner).
The field events were good to the Spartans again. Besides Bransky’s long jump win, Kara Misel qualified in both the shot put (37 feet, 10.5 inches) and discus (with a career-best 127 feet 2 inches). Double places came from Shelby Gunnells (36 feet, 11 inches, sixth place) in the shot and Kelsey Cave (115 feet 6 inches, fourth) in the discus. Cave got her own win with a 5 foot, 3 inch high jump. And the distance events may provide state meet bonus points. Senior Leah Adams notched a solid third place in the 3000 (11:10.44) and freshman Alex Smith was sixth (5:08.65) in the 1500 at district.
Even in the two events for which Solon did not qualify, Sands noted that 400 hurdler Angel Wilford had her career best time and that 400 sprinter Shafer’s finish would have been under the cutoff for state in previous years. “The key might have been that we didn’t really perform poorly anywhere,” said Sands. “Everyone just stepped it up a little and was able to put it all together in one night.
Late season lineups involve a little gambling, as to what other schools might do; both at district and then at State. “We tested Jadyn Miller with three 400s and she responded very well (at DeWitt, including a relay split under 1:01). Leah Adams and Alex Smith had their best 3000 and 1500 ever,” Sands noted. “Benzing was herself and did great as usual. She had to go low in her open and distance medley 800s and did that. Mallory Carr had a very good night– best 800 of her career by far in the 4x8.”
This week, Solon spreads its one-evening district lineup over three days. And if last week’s Wahlert-Solon-Assumption finish looks familiar, it is. Wahlert won the 3A title last year. Assumption was runner-up, with Solon (tied with Waverly-Shell Rock) third. “We definitely had three of the top teams (at district),” assessed Sands. “As I look at numbers I would say Assumption will be the one to beat at the state meet.”