DES MOINES - The South Tama County 4x100-meter relay team knew it had a chance at advancing to the finals. The Trojans also knew it was going to be close.
And it was.
Entering the weekend with the 10th best time, the Trojans came up 0.02 seconds short of a top-eight qualifying position Friday at the 104th Drake Relays and were forced to watch the finals on the blue oval Saturday at Drake Stadium.
Sporting the fastest 4x100 time in Class 3A coming into the Relays, the foursome of senior Kaleb Davenport, juniors Dylan Kalinay and Daryl Bidwell and senior Kyle Stephenson crossed the line in a personal-best 43.64 seconds.
Cedar Rapids Xavier celebrated its final qualifying spot with a time of 43.62. Seventh-place Southeast Polk also finished just ahead of the Trojans in 43.59.
"I am happy with the way we performed in both races," South Tama County coach George Kuhter said. "That would have been a first for South Tama, but we have to look at the big picture and know that we are still one of the best 3A teams in the state and our focus has to be on the state meet."
The winning time was Des Moines Lincoln with a 43.25. The 4x100 finals took place Saturday.
"To get that close and not make it was a definite heartbreaker at the time," said Stephenson, who anchored the Trojans' 4x100 and 4x200 teams Friday. "But it gives us motivation. We know we can run with any 3A team and win. We are looking positive right now."
The Trojans also were 12th in the 4x200 relay. The same four Trojans ran the 4x200 relay, too. Kuhter said he doesn't know if a South Tama County team has taken a 4x200 team to the Relays and finished that high in the past 20 years.
"We are going to have to tweak that one a little bit because our handoffs were not that good," Kuhter said. "There are a lot of teams refining things too though. The goal is to keep getting better."
STC's 4x200 time was clocked at a personal-best 1:31.05. The winning time came from Linn-Mar and the Lions hit the line in 1:28.81.
The Trojan foursome that performed at the Drake Relays on Friday is setting the highest bar in the history of the school. No STC squad has ever advanced to the 4x100 finals at the Drake Relays and not many 4x200 teams can claim a top-12 finish either. Stephenson hopes the trend continues.
"Every event you can take to the Drake Relays is a big deal," he said. "Hopefully the young talent we have coming up through the system can see that something like this is possible."
The Trojans recorded personal-best times in both events, despite facing a tough head wind on the backstretch of the track.
Kalinay was pleased with the team's performance despite not getting a lot of meets in due to an unusually cold and rainy spring.
"The wind was pretty strong coming down the straightaway but it affects everyone else, too. We PRed by a little bit so that was good," Kalinay said after the 4x200. "Running here, it's amazing. There are so many people here. It's a big adrenaline rush."
Kuhter admitted that his Trojans were pretty dejected after seeing the final qualifying times for the 4x100 and knowing they got so close.
"We kind of had to talk them off the ledge a bit, but I think they get the big picture now," Kuhter said. "We just went toe-to-toe with the best 4A teams in the state. And we are still in good shape as far as 3A goes.
"We are going to have a target on our back now, but that's OK."