DES MOINES– Team depth and balance, which piled up points during the regular season, came through in the clutch as Solon’s girls finished third in the Class 3A State Track Meet May 19-21 in Des Moines.
The Spartans got help from throughout the lineup to tie Waverly-Shell Rock for third place with 59 points. Dubuque Wahlert ran away with the 3A title, with 96 points. Davenport Assumption stayed just out of Solon’s reach with 64 points to claim runner-up. In all, 41 3A schools scored at the State Meet, with several others getting no points.
“We weren’t surprised by Wahlert. We knew they would be difficult to catch,” assessed coach Brent Sands. “We told the girls, ‘here is where we need to be, to be in position to get them; if not, then runner-up. Our theme was ‘we are all in;’ we went down knowing we would fight for every point.” Solon did it with no first place finishes; relying instead on seconds, thirds, fourths and more from contributors in 12 of the 19 events. During the state meet, they broke five school records.
“Our distance and our sprints came through. Our field events came together,” summarized junior Emily Bransky. She was part of that multi-tasking bunch; finishing fourth in the 100 meters (13.15), seventh in the 200 (27.04), leading off the second place 4x200 relay (with the baton passing to Karly Kramer, Taylor Van Scoyoc and Courtney Holub in 1:45.01) and coming within 2-1/4 inches of the long jump crown. Bransky’s 16’11½ leap was good for third and came on her last attempt in the finals. Not bad for an event she started running halfway through the season. “Five meets; I pretty much was trying (the past week) to be consistent in my approach,” explained Bransky. “I’m already excited for next year!”
Throughout the three day meet, it was multiple points from multiple girls. Lauren Benzing had a hand– and two legs– in the 3000 (10:09.13 for third), the 1500 (4:52.55 for fourth), the 800 (2:17.52 for third) and anchored the distance medley with Holub, Van Scoyoc and Kramer; teaming to finish third in 4:14.05.
With the second smallest enrollment among the 64 Class 3A schools, 2011 was Solon’s first foray into the larger school state meet competition. The girls shared the Class 2A crown last year. “I’m really happy with the ways things turned out. I could not have expected the times I ended up with. This season exceeded my expectations,” admitted Benzing. Her 3000 time on the meet’s opening morning was a personal best. She also broke the standing Class 3A state record, as did the two runners ahead of her. Also scoring Friday was sophomore Kelsey Cave, matching her career best of 5’4 in the high jump. That was good for fifth place.
The distance medley and 4x200 relays, on a rain-and-lightning-delayed day two, were ‘finals’ and helped Solon stack up 31 points and a tentative hold on second place. However, as the rain gave way to a sunny, humid Saturday, the Lady Spartans added points, scoring in seven of the eight events in which they had finalists.
And on Saturday, the team point counting began in earnest. Wahlert sat firmly in first. However, five schools; Solon, Davenport Assumption, Mount Vernon, Clear Lake and Benton Community were chasing the Golden Eagles with between 31 and 20 points. Not to be forgotten, too, was Waverly-Shell Rock; sitting in 14th with ‘just’ 9 points.
On Saturday, Benzing’s third place 800 provided six more team points, with her fourth place 1500 good for five more. The shuttle hurdle relay foursome of Rylee Smith, Jennifer Shelman, Caitlin Knoedel and Holub turned up five more with a 1:07.48 fourth-place finish. Bransky’s points in the 100 and 200 came later, as did Smith’s eighth-place finish (16.38) in the 100 hurdles.
On Saturday, too, Waverly-Shell Rock’s Rachel Peth went to work. She anchored their shuttle hurdle relay, then within an hour and 20 minutes, won the 100, 100 hurdles and the 200. Those 40 points, boosted by team places in a couple other events, catapulted her team into second place as the final two events approached.
Smith, Van Scoyoc, Jessie Brimeyer and Holub streaked to a 50.75 4x100 relay finish– good for fourth for the Spartans. However, Assumption and Wahlert ran 1-2 there. That extended Wahlert’s victory margin and lifted Solon into a second place tie with Waverly-Shell Rock. Assumption and Wahlert came back; 1-2 in the final event, the 4x400 relay. Neither Solon nor Waverly-Shell Rock had a finalist there, allowing Assumption to slip into the runner-up slot.
“You look at a point here, a point there and they add up,” said Sands, noting at all the thirds, fourths and fifths– the ‘in-between’ places that could have bumped the Spartans in a few events, but also could have dropped them, had that point or two not been won. “It goes back to the ‘whole team’ (concept); that’s why we went down there,” he added.