DES MOINES Kyle Stephenson came here last week with dreams of earning four state medals.
After two relays that just missed the top eight and three jumps in long jump, the South Tama junior finished the weekend with one individual race and state medal. He left the season on a positive note.
"This definitely makes me want it more," Stephenson said. "I'll be training all summer to get back here next year. I can't wait for next year."
South Tama's Kyle Stephenson (No. 1) runs the 100-meter dash finals Saturday afternoon at the state meet at the Drake University Stadium. Stephenson finished sixth to earn a state medal.
His final event of the three-day meet was the 100-meter dash finals. He finished seventh out of 24 runners in the preliminary heats on Thursday after placing third in his heat. On Saturday afternoon, Stephenson finished sixth in the 100 dash finals, with a time of 11.67 seconds. The 100 dash finals were run into a gusty headwind.
"I'm pleased," Stephenson said. "Anything in the top eight is sweet to me. It's just awesome being here and competing with all of these guys."
Head coach George Kuhter was happy for his junior sprinter/jumper to earn a state medal after the 400- and 800-meter relays narrowly missed out on a chance for a top-eight finish.
"It was a pretty even field," Kuhter said of the 100 dash finals. "In the prelims, he ran into a pretty strong headwind and his time was a bit slower than we expected, but he made the finals. I feel good for him, but I wish things could have turned out better for him in the 4x100, 4x200 and long jump. I know he'll take the medal and enjoy it."
South Tama's 400 and 800 relay teams entered the state meet with hopes of a state medal, especially the 400 relay team, which had the fourth-fastest district time in the state. However, a bad handoff left the Trojans playing catch up during the race. They finished second during their race, running 44.24 and placing 10th. The eighth-place team ran 44.16, which left the Trojans 0.09 seconds from making Saturday's finals.
The STC 800 relay team didn't have as high of hopes, but still a shot at a state medal. There were no prelims for this event, as all teams competed on Friday and the best eight times out of the three heats earned a state medal. South Tama ran well, but finished ninth in a time of 1:31.3. Relay members for both teams were Brody Boldt, Dylan Kalinay, Daryl Bidwell, and Stephenson. Boldt was the only senior on the two relays.
"The 4x200 was a good deal," Kuhter said. "We knew we'd have to run really fast to get a point and we came very close.
"The nice thing about it is we have one guy to replace on both relays," he said. "We're going to scrounge the halls of the high school to find someone to run a strong leg for us. We'll be back down here with our 4x100 and 4x200."
South Tama also had two distance runners who nearly finished in the top eight. Senior Brandon Nelson started the Trojans off with the 3,200-meter run in his first time to state. He placed 11th, running 10:00.79.
"Place-wise, I wanted to be a bit better," Nelson said. "I was 11th and I wanted to be in the top eight to get a medal. I'm content with my time. It's a good time, but I would have liked to have been a few seconds faster and got that school record."
Nelson's coach was proud of him.
"Brandon is one of those kids that decided he was going to come to the state track meet and compete," Kuhter said. "It was his first and only time down here. He was going to make the most of it and he had a good week of practice.
"He wanted to run as close to the school record as he could," he said. " He was on school-record pace for seven of eight laps. I think, all of a sudden, being at the state track meet hit him. Once he started to slow down, he composed himself and finished hard. I'm proud of him being here. This was a goal of his after sitting here last year watching guys run 10:45 or slower. He got right in the middle of the race and he was a contender the whole race. You have to be happy for him to come here and ran nearly his best time ever."
Junior Brady Ellenbecker was the final Trojan to run at the state meet. He ran the 1,600-meter run for the third year. After finishing last and nearly last the previous two years, Ellenbecker nearly earned a state medal in his third year at state. He placed 10th in a time of 4:36.8.
"I was shooting for top half," Ellenbecker said. "I would have been happy with the top 12, so 10th is nice. We actually went out slower than I thought we would. We went out about a 1:06, which is what I'm used to. I didn't mean to be in the lead around the first turn, but I was worried about the start. I've been boxed in before and didn't want that to happen this year."
Other STC state track results were Stephenson in long jump (11th, 20 feet, 5 inches), Sam Kuhter in long jump (18th, 19-8.5), Brad Cecak in 200 (20th, 24.02) and 400 (17th, 52.21), Kalinay in 110-meter hurdles (23rd, 16.59) and the 3,200-meter relay (22nd, 8:31.5).
"Hopefully all of the juniors will be back and maybe they'll bring some of their friends," Kuhter said. "This has been nothing but a positive experience for him. I wish the results would have been better. Once you taste this, this becomes your goal for four years."