By Joe Wilkinson
Special to the Economist
TIPTON– At some point during the tumult to stay warm, girls in foul weather football gear were simply spinning until they fell; then trying to get up without using their hands.
With temperatures in the upper 30s, and wind pushing the ‘feels like’ factor into the 20s, athletes and fans at the Tigerette Relays girls track meet in Tipton Friday were doing just about anything to keep warm and cheer on their teammates.
By meet’s end, many athletes were huddled on the buses. But Solon’s girls had a meet to win, and runners to cheer on from the infield. So, more than a dozen were bundled up in shoulder pad-wide, knee length raincoats; the kind designed for rainy, windy fall sidelines. “(We) got them from the football team. We were dancing, running, sharing them. It was a nice night to have them,” laughed sophomore Katie Folkerts.
Did they work? “Oh, yeah; it was like an oven in there,” said Folkerts. But sharing? “Yeah, we had two in some. I think the most was three.”
Staying warm in weird raincoats kept the Solon sideliners moving. And yelling encouragement to team members. It worked. Solon edged defending Class 2A state champion Cascade 119-116 capping a three-meet, three-win week. Northeast-Goose Lake was third (79 points), followed by Clear Creek-Amana (52), Monticello (48 1/2), Camanche (46 1/2), Springville (36), West Liberty (33), Maquoketa Valley (17), Tipton (16), Keokuk (12), Regina (10) and Preston (4).
The Tipton meet is a long-held tradition; a mix of now-Class 3A (including Solon), 2A and 1A schools. It is often the only time Solon goes up against several of the schools. That tradition was tinkered with, to finish early. Running events began earlier. Field events came off in an odd order. Even the traditional half-hour break was shortened to 10 minutes or so. That change met with solid fan approval.
“In this cold, you have to stay warm. It was quite a shock, taking off sweats and putting them back on all the time,” admitted senior Kara Misel. She had a season best 40’5-1/2 shot put win. Two 40 foot heaves in the finals left her grinning, in spite of the cold. “I was just real excited. I’m breaking 40 again. My goal this year is the school record, 41’3-1/2. Then I’ll go from there.” Misel was second in the discus, flinging it 119’5.
Coaches were scratching tired or dinged-up runners to avoid cold-weather injuries, then re-assembling lineups. The Spartans had just run the night before in West Branch, and three days earlier in Marengo. “I’d like to go back and look at what those teams normally run; look at our times and see how that stacks up to tonight, with the cold,” said Solon coach Brent Sands. Still, there were bright spots. “Jordan Smith was close to 1:02 in the open 400. That’s pretty good. Sydney Lawson ran solid 200s the last two nights. Having her back (from injury) is good,” noted Sands. “In this cold weather, Folkerts’ second 1:15 of the week, in the 400 hurdles is actually quite an improvement.”
Besides Misel and Jordan Smith, other Solon winners included Molly Walkner, Mallory Carr, Alyssa Rickels and Folkerts in the 4x800 relay (10:31.23); Rylee Smith in the 100 hurdles (16.09); and Rylee Smith, Haley Bell, Jessica Brimeyer and Jordan Smith in the sprint medley (1:56.87). Perhaps the closest one-two finish of the night came in the 4x100. Rylee Smith, Karly Kramer, Brimeyer and Emily Ira pushed Northeast to the wire; their 53.43 just .05 second behind.
West Branch, April 11
Solon won in a runaway in the seven-school Chad Gates Invitational, beating the host Bears, 132-87, with the rest of the field trailing on a cold, rainy night so miserable that the four field events were chopped back.
Spartan winners included Lauren Benzing in the 3,000 (10:44); Brimeyer, Lawson, Haley Bell and Carr in the 4x200 (1:50.63); Lawson in the open 200 (28.02); Folkerts in the 400 hurdles (1:15.59); Rylee Smith, Bell, Carr and Jadyn Miller in the sprint medley (1:58.30); and Smith, Kari Vance, Lawson and Ira in the 4x100 (52.77).
Marengo, April 8
The Lady Spartans started their three-in-a-week-streak of championships in Marengo at the Ruth Aherns Invitational. Their 141 points far outdistanced runner-up Oskaloosa’s 86, with six teams falling in behind in the large division.
Lauren Benzing’s win in the 1,500 and a first from Rylee Smith, Bell, Brimeyer and Jordan Smith in the 800 meter sprint medley set meet records. Misel lit up the throws board with a 129 foot discus heave. Mallory Carr and Molly Walkner each had outstanding legs in the 4x800 relay.
Where we at?
Just past the midpoint of the season, and with the prestigious Drake Relays approaching, it’s worth a progress report; both in Class 3A, as district meet assignments came out, and as the Drake qualification deadline approaches.
Drake entrants are statewide, with no consideration of small or large school class. And not all high school events are held at Drake. Heading toward the Thursday deadline, Solon had several hopefuls with this week’s Gruber Relays in Solon to still improve their marks. Misel was sixth statewide in the discus, seventh in the shot. Benzing was 14th among all classes in the 1,500, and 12th in the 3,000. Rylee Smith was ranked 15th in the 100 meter hurdles, with the 800 sprint medley and 4x100 relay good possibilities.
In the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s Class 3A, Solon has 11 (of 19) events listed among the leaders. That includes Kara Misel, with the top shot put (40’5½). Misel’s discus toss and Lauren Benzing’s 1,500 and 3,000 times are second in 3A, as is the Spartans’ 800 meter medley relay.
Dubuque Wahlert, Davenport Assumption and Solon have finished 1-2-3 at State, each of the last three years. Any 2013 showdown will have to wait. Each school is going to a different district meet. Solon will be in Grinnell May 9.