Taylor Ellenbecker started her outdoor season with a bang as she brought home gold in one individual race and ran on a first-place relay at the opening meet Monday night.
Ellenbecker, a South Tama County sophomore, earned 16 individual points and helped two relays place at the Trojans' Early Bird Invitational. Junior, Jade Rohach, also scored 16 points with two runner-up finishes for the Trojans.
Those two juniors helped a young STC girls squad place third at its home opener. Newton won the meet with 124 points, while Benton Community scored 119 to finish second. STC scored 97 points Monday.
South Tama sophomore Taylor Ellenbecker won the 3,000-meter run Monday at the Trojans' Early Bird Invitational. Ellenbecker won the race by 39 seconds as she finished in a time of 12:10.53.
"I was very happy," head coach Emily Chyma said. "Our girls did very well. Our girls keep taking time off and taking time off. That's becoming our standard. We want to keep working at it, because we know where we wanna be as a team."
Ellenbecker won the only individual gold of the evening for the Trojans. She took the lead right after the gun on the 3,000-meter run and never looked back. She cruised to an easy victory, winning in a time of 12:10.53. She won the race by 39 seconds.
"It wasn't the time she was looking for, but she ran away with it," Chyma said. "When there's no one with you, it's hard to push yourself."
Ellenbecker also ran the starting leg of the 400-meter thrower's relay. Since the Trojans only have one thrower, Chyma filled the other three spots with distance runners. Joining Ellenbecker, were sophomores Erin Filloon, Trisha Walz and Samantha Holtz. They won in a time of 1:00.21, beating the GMG team by six seconds.
"I was impressed with our distance ladies' ability to hustle," Chyma said. "Those girls get so fired up to run the thrower's relay."
Rohach turned in two runner-up finishes in individual events. She cleared 4-8 in the high jump to place second. Rohach soared over the bar at 4-8, but was never able to match that jump at 4-10.
In the 200-meter dash, Rohach ran 28.98 to finish second. She earned eight team points with each second-place finish.
"Jade had a tremendous jump in high jump," Chyma said. "She cleared 4-8, but she would have easily had 5 feet. It was beautiful. We're working on technique with her and May is our goal for when we need that jump."
The Trojans also scored big team points in the 100-meter dash. Only the top two athletes from each school can score points, but three Trojans finished in the top six of the race.
Sophomore Sonya Peters, freshman Kiley Culbertson and sophomore Brittany Bear placed third, fifth and sixth in the event. Peters ran 14.49, while Culbertson and Bear each ran 14.69 and 14.74.
"They all did great," Chyma said of her 100 dash runners. "They are all looking to set new PRs. I like to see that in the 100, because then it's easier to put together 4x100 and sprint medley relays."
Later in the day, the STC girls scored points in two distance races. Ellenbecker placed third in the 800-meter run in a time of 2:43.77. Her teammate Walz, finished fifth in the race, running 2:46.74. Junior Kelsey Kupka also placed third in the 1,500-meter run, as she ran 5:32.3.
In the field events, Holtz placed in the shot put and discus. She finished third in the discus with a mark of 95-feet, 6 inches, after placing sixth in the shot put with a throw of 30-6.5. Junior Riley Craun jumped 14-6 in the long jump to finish third for the Trojans.
"Sam Holz had a rough start to the day in shot put, but it's another area that we are working on," Chyma said. "But she came back with a tremendous throw in discus. Turning around like that says a lot about her character and mental abilities. I was very impressed with that turn around.
"We've been working pretty hard in our field events," she said. "I use the word finesse, because we're working on different areas of technique and trying to get them all down by May. The girls did a really nice job to start off the season."
One performance that made Chyma smile came from freshman Dahiana Puentes in the 1,500 run. Puentes sprinted hard down the home stretch, passing two girls on her way to finishing seventh in a time of 6:04.45.
"Dahiana Puentes was cracking me up yesterday," Chyma said. "She had one of the best finishes in the 800 and 1,500. In the 1,500 she passed on the inside. She wasn't going to place, but she kicked it in the last 100. She was driving her arms hard. It was great to see her start to develop that toughness."
The Trojans and other competing teams were blessed with wonderful weather Monday evening for the meet. Temperatures were in the 70s and the sun was shining.
"Charley (Townsley) was smiling down on us from Heaven on that one," Chyma said of the late sports editor at the Tama and Toledo newspapers. "He was having a good time. It was great weather for the first meet and it might be the best weather we have all season."
STC will head to Knoxville on Saturday to compete in an eight-team meet. On Monday, the Trojans will be competing at Norwalk.
"We're looking forward to Knoxville," Chyma said. "It's a fast track and we're usually down by 4. I'm excited to see our girls keep working on their technique and improving."