SOLON– Running in conditions ranging from near winter to mid-summer; Solon middle school track girls faced a jump to large school competition, had an individual state meet champion and another runner-up, broke an armload of school records and beat just about everybody they faced in the 7th and 8th grade seasons this spring.
The 8th grade 2011 season came to a sudden, sodden end as the May 13 West Liberty Invitational was ‘called’ with just three events to go, in a steady, cold rain. The junior Spartans had just pulled into a tie with Clear Creek-Amana—the only team to beat them consistently over the last two years—with three point-heavy events to go.
On the lengthy upside, though, the 8th graders logged an 11th place finish at the Iowa Association of Track Coaches State Meet, with a jump up to the Class 3A/4A large school division. In all, 21 teams scored points, with another dozen or so not breaking through the top six to log a point.
At the state meet, discus thrower Shelby Gunnells capped a two-season run at the school record and a state championship, with a heave of 97’11 (previously 96’1, held by Kelsey Cave, 2009). Gunnells then finished fifth in the shot put with a 28’8 toss.
Also placing at state were Alex Smith in the 1500 (4th, 5:14.96) bringing down Solon’s middle school record (5:15.58, Alyssa Rickels, 2009), the sprint medley relay team of Allison Koffron, Katie Folkerts, Haley Bell and Mady Shafer (5th in 2:05.84) and the 4x100 shuttle hurdle relay foursome of Molly Walkner, Kaitlin Hatcher, Folkerts and Kari Vance (6th in 1:13.78) with a school record breaking run.
That shuttle hurdle mark was set and broken several times through this season, since the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Association replaced the 4x77 meter, seven hurdle race in junior high with the longer, ten hurdle event. (That shorter event record had been 53:74, set in 2004 by Kristine Swenson, Nikki Hotz, Arissa Bevans and Becca Smith.)
The day-long State meet was just hours after the girls left the WaMaC East Division conference meet in Anamosa. There, they piled up 150 points and were the only school close to champ West Delaware (178 points). Two more school record fell. Mileah Mesch, Folkerts, Carlyn Haas and Smith sprinted away from the 4x800 relay field, posting a 10:51.97, for first place. (The previous Solon best– 10:52.58– was in 2005, run by Maggie Randall, Mackenzie Wise, Hannah Rundell and Lindsey Knoedel.)
Later in the meet, Molly Walkner lowered the school 800 mark (2:33.65 by Brandi Heaps in 1986) with a 2:32.50; good for first place. Gunnells was Solon’s other WaMaC East champ; claiming first in both the shot put (30’4) and the discus (93’5.5)
Leading up to that home stretch, the 8th graders carded three firsts and two seconds in their five early season meets. Other than State, the class of 2015 finished behind only Clear Creek-Amana (twice) and West Delaware, finishing on the up side over 36 schools, with two team wins in six regular season 2011 meets.
In their first year of competitive track and field, Solon’s seventh graders notched five second place finishes and one third, in six regular season meets. They also had the door closed at West Liberty, when steady rain brought an early end to the seven team meet, with the team race undecided.
In their first season, most seventh graders ‘try out’ several different events to determine where they best perform and help the team. Still, they can boast of a school record holder, a state meet runnerup and consistent team finishes through the season. That record came in the 100 meter hurdles, after a three way contest over the season between Sydney Lawson and eighth graders Molly Walkner and Kari Vance. Each of the three held the new record for a week or so.
Had they run together, it would have been a photo finish. At season’s end, Lawson’s 17.72 just edged Walkner’s best– 17.80 and Vance’s 17.81. Like the shuttle hurdle relay, that 100 meter event replaces the shorter 77-meter, seven hurdle race this season. That seven flight hurdle mark was broken just last year (11.77, Rylee Smith).
A 12th place team finish in the larger Class 3A/4A division at State was a highlight, as Solon moved up from small school designation this year. There, 24 schools scored points, along with about 15 other schools and various individuals competing, with no score.
Katie Misel grabbed second in the shot put (28’0½) and backed that up with sixth place in the discus (65’7.5). Sydney Lawson was third in the 200 (an into the wind 30.10) and led off the shuttle hurdle relay team, along with Nicole Oberthien, Diana Howsare, finishing fifth (1:20.28). ‘Just misses’ for state meet points came from Oberthien (7th, 33.80) in the 200 hurdles and Oberthien, Courtney Joens, Katie Moore and Lawson in the 4x800 relay 7th, 11:19.42).
Leading up to the end of the season bests, Solon’s 7th grade came with 2½) points of the WaMaC East crown (Mount Vernon 127.5 , Solon 125) and consistently finished near the top of meets with six, seven and eight teams competing.