VINTON Although the South Tama boys track and field team automatically qualified in four events here Thursday, the Trojans will be competing in 10 events this weekend in Des Moines.
It was a banner day for the Trojans, who will be sending their most qualifiers to the state meet in recent years. A year ago, they sent competitors in eight events, but this year's Class 3A district meet was an even better one.
"It's the biggest bunch we've had in a long time," head coach George Kuhter said. "It's a pretty nice deal. The better part about it is most of them are juniors and sophomores."
South Tama senior Brad Cecak automatically qualified for state in the 400-meter dash Thursday at the Class 3A district meet.
South Tama finished third in the meet. STC scored 93.5 points, narrowly losing to Center Point, who scored 94 points. Marion ran away with the meet with 166.5 team points.
"It's all about the qualifiers," Kuhter said. "They are going to run in the fast heats, but they are going to get the experience. It will help with their nerves at the big meets. It's a different deal running in front of 500 people than it is to run in front of 18,000 at the Drake Stadium."
The first and second place finishers in each event at each of the eight districts automatically qualified for the state meet , with the next eight best times or performances. South Tama won only one event and placed runner-up in three, but six its performance in six others were good enough to participate in Des Moines.
STC's 400-meter relay was the lone winner. The Trojans easily won the race, in a time of 43.8. The runners on the relay were Brody Boldt, Dylan Kalinay, Daryl Bidwell and Kyle Stephenson. The same four Trojans also finished runner-up in the 800-meter relay. Their time of 1:31.73 was second to Marion's team, which ran 1:31.03.
"I would have been disappointed if either relay didn't make it in the first or second slot," Kuhter said.
South Tama's Brad Cecak automatically qualified for state in the 400-meter dash, with his second-place finish. He ran the race in 51.13 seconds. Cecak also qualified in the 200-meter dash, despite finishing fifth in the race (23.58).
"I thought that Kyle and Sam would be automatics in the 100 and long jump," coach Kuhter said. "So, it was a little nerve-racking today waiting for the qualifiers. I was worried more about the 200 and 400. The way those guys got in gave me a bit more of headache."
Stephenson was the other Trojan to automatically qualify for the state meet. He placed runner-up in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 9 inches. Teammate Sam Kuhter will also be competing in the long jump. Kuhter fouled on his two jumps and made sure his third and final jump was clean, but it was short. However, it squeaked him into finals, where he moved up to third with a jump of 20-2. He finished third in the event.
"It was pretty stressful," Sam Kuhter said. "I was just hoping to be able to get into finals. I went back pretty far and I took off probably a foot from the board. I just wanted to get a good jump in so I could have a chance in the finals. Then I ended up being eighth and hit a good one in the finals. Last year, I scratched out and then this year, I was able to hit one and actually be in contention. It was pretty nice.
"We get along really well," he said of him and Stephenson. "We're spending time together all of the time. We're working out together. For both of us to make it is pretty cool, because we'll be competing together."
South Tama's distance duo of Brandon Nelson and Brady Ellenbecker also qualified for the state, each with third-place finishes at the district meet. Nelson, who ran the fifth-fastest district time in the state, ran a 10:06.34 in the 3,200-meter run last Thursday. Ellenbecker finished his 1,600-meter run in a time of 4:33.26, which also was the fifth-fastest time at any district meet.
"The district meets are all about just getting qualified," Kuhter said. "They will have to run faster to get into the medals. The can do it and they're ready for it."
Ellenbecker also helped the STC 3,200-meter relay team qualify. The Trojans finished fifth in the race, with a time of 8:20.06, which was good enough to be seeded No. 14 at the state meet. His relay teammates were Robert Tyynismaa, Tyler Martens and Clay Waterbury.
"We just to make some adjustments there and everybody had to run what they could," Kuhter said. "We knew going in that we might make it in on time if there are a few weaker districts. Clay got us off to a good start and Brady anchored us, with our middle guys running solid like they have all year."
The other qualifier from STC was Kalinay, in the 110-meter hurdles. He finished third in a time of 15.7, which has him seeded No. 18.
"That was a complete and utter surprise after the start he got," Kuhter said. "He was the last to the first hurdle, but he kept churning away. He caught up with a few guys by the second hurdle. He has so much more speed now between the hurdles. He's got that extra strength to get over those hurdles when running as fast as he can. He probably wouldn't have gotten in if he finished fourth or fifth."
The Trojans will begin competing at the state meet on Thursday and it ends Saturday. The first event for the Trojans will be the 3,200 run, which starts at 10:10 a.m. Thursday.