WAVERLY - On a day where the previously reliable field events struggled, South Tama's runners stepped up and competed well on the track here Friday.
During the first two indoor track and field meets, the Lady Trojans were led by great performances in the field events. They scored points and set personal-best marks in the shot put, long jump and high jump. The Lady Trojans still scored points in those events Friday at the North Iowa Cedar League meet at Wartburg College, but it was the races on the track that was the talk of the team and coaches.
"I felt we had a really good showing," coach George Corum said. "There were a few inconsistencies, but that's going to happen a little bit. Our field events weren't as consistent as coach (Olivia) Van Zante and I would like. But I felt like we had some really solid performances in the running events. We had some people get out of their comfort zone and run well for us."
South Tama junior Taylor Ellenbecker competes in the 3,200-meter run. She finished third in the race, running it in a time of 11:49.
STC's girls' team ran so well at the meet that it would have finished third, according to Corum. The meet wasn't scored for team scores, but Corum and assistant coach Olivia Van Zante kept track of the team scores in every event. Their totals had STC finishing third; just 1.5 points behind runner-up Jesup with Hudson winning the meet. They calculated Hudson scoring 85.5 points, Jesup scoring 52 and STC with 50.5 points.
"The girls were excited and focused," Corum said. "It was a good night."
The Lady Trojans did all of that without two solid seniors. Shelby Bradley and Kelsey Kupka weren't able to compete as they were required to attend the STC play practice. However, the rest of the team stepped up and competed at the meet.
Junior Taylor Ellenbecker had a big day for the Lady Trojans. She began the day with her best 3,000-meter run time of the season. She ran the same race at Iowa State University on March 11. Ellenbecker dropped her time by 13 seconds, as she ran 11:57.49 on Friday. She sprinted to the finish line and held off a Hudson runner to finish third in the race.
"I'm happy for the most part, but I think I could have done a little better," Ellenbecker said. "I'll settle with it. My time wasn't great, but I have to work on endurance. The other girls ran really well. Corum says it's my killer instinct that I need. I felt like I had it on my kick.
"This was definitely my best indoor race this year," she said. "I'm ready for outdoor. I can't deal with this indoor stuff anymore. It's too many laps."
Ellenbecker's rest after her 3,000 was brief as she competed in the next event, which was the 4x800-meter relay. Freshman Belle Tyynismaa, freshman Madie Bacon and junior Trisha Walz ran the first three legs of the relay for the Lady Trojans. Ellenbecker anchored it in fourth place for much of her leg. Her sprint to the finish was once again huge as she caught the Hudson team and edged them out at the finish line, taking third for South Tama. Their relay time was 11:07.85.
"I didn't think I'd run that well after my 3,000," Ellenbecker said. "The other girls ran great, too."
Ellenbecker returned to the track later in the evening to run the 1,500-meter run and 800-meter run for the Lady Trojans. She finished seventh in the 1,500 and ninth in the 800 to cap off a grueling day of competition.
"Taylor Ellenbecker ran almost four miles," Corum said. "She really came to battle and I appreciate that. She had two photo finishes for us. She had a really good day."
Bacon and Tyynismaa also had good days for STC. Bacon began the day by setting a new personal best in the high jump. She cleared 4-feet, 10 inches and placed fourth. She came back and ran on the 4x800 for the first time ever and split a 2:49 on her 800. Bacon later finished fourth in the 400-meter dash and helped the 4x400-meter relay finish third. Also competing on the relay were Jade Rohach, Paige Balvin and Samantha Magpie.
Tyynismaa led the Lady Trojans in the 200- and 400-meter dashes. She ran a 28.65 in the 200 and placed fourth, before running a 1:05 in the 400 and finishing third in the race. She also split a 2:37.94 on the 4x800 relay, which led the team. Tyynismaa also placed seventh in long jump with a mark of 14-0.5.
"Belle and Madie really had some gutsy performances," Corum said. "Madie had a PR in her high jump at 4-10. Then she also had two really solid performances in the 400 and then we put her on the spot in the 4x800 relay and she ran very solid for us. Belle had an off day in the long jump, but her 200 and 400 were really well ran. Then the pinnacle for us was when we put her in the 4x800 and she ran that unbelievable split."
Rohach scored in several events for STC. She placed seventh in the long jump, sixth in the high jump and fifth in the 200. She also ran the fastest split on the 4x400 relay.
Sam Holtz and Kaleigh Sieck both placed in the shot put. Holtz threw 35-10 and finished third, while Sieck threw 33-6 and placed fifth at her first meet where she threw shot put.
The STC distance medley and 4x200-meter relays also ran well. The distance medley team of Kiley Culbertson, Sieck, Balvin and Naomi Hoskey finished fifth, running 5:01.52. The 4x200 team of Nicole Berry, Sieck, Culbertson and Riley Craun placed seventh in a time of 2:01.82.
"We're starting to see times drop, which is expected," Corum said. "Those first two meets were good for us, as far as pace purposes and trying different kids around at different events. Going into Friday, we wanted to make a statement and I think we did. It had the other schools looking at us, at least the ones on our half of the conference.
"There are going to be ups and downs," he said. "We need to have the mindset of 'I'm going to go out there and do my best.' We need that agenda of bringing their A-game every time."
South Tama has this week off and will next run at home on April 2. The Trojans will host the STC Early Bird meet, pending warmer weather.
"I think every track coach in Iowa is hoping for something nice as far as weather," Corum said. "For us, there's no school on Thursday or Friday. Then we have the weekend and no school on Monday. With that many days off, we're going to have a couple of practices during that time period. We can't go in cold like that, but I'm hoping the weather won't be cold."