GRINNELL - Last year's state track and field meet might have been a warm-up for the South Tama boys team.
This year, the Trojans have the potential to make some noise and live up to their mantra "shock the world."
South Tama qualified for this week's state meet with 10 bids, which includes the top Class 3A times in the 4x100-meter relay and 4x200-meter relay. STC competed at one of the best districts in the state on Thursday and automatically qualified in three events. However, on Friday afternoon, the Trojans discovered they were also qualified seven more times, in just five events.
South Tama senior Kyle Stephenson, center, leans across the finish line as he wins the 4x100-meter relay for the Trojans. The STC team of Kaleb Davenport, Dylan Kalinay, Daryl Bidwell and Stephenson ran 43.25 and broke the school record for the second time in a week.
"We ran well at districts and I am happy that the boys qualified so many events," coach George Kuhter said. "It goes to show how hard-working this bunch is and we expect to do well at the state track meet this weekend. When we look at it, it is hard not to be greedy but we could in reality have qualified in three more events but that is the way districts work and you have to be ready at the right time. All in all I am very happy with our group and what they have done this year. Now we head to state and see what results we can bring back, it should be a very interesting weekend."
Senior Sam Kuhter was the lone individual to automatically qualify at Thursday's district meet. Kuhter narrowly finished second in the long jump, leaping 20 feet, 0.25 inches. It was just 0.25 inches shy of first place, but more than a foot ahead of third. This will be Kuhter's second trip to state in the long jump, after he participated last year.
The two other automatic qualifiers for the Trojans were their top two relays. They once again proved why they hold the fastest 3A times in both the 4x100 and 4x200. The team of senior Kaleb Davenport, junior Dylan Kalinay, senior Daryl Bidwell and senior Kyle Stephenson won both races going away.
"We were pretty confident coming in and just ready to go," Stephenson said. "Our handoffs weren't the best, but they were good enough for now."
In the 4x200, Stephenson held off runners from Pella and Solon to win the race in a time of 1:30.33. However, later in the night, the Trojans smoked the competition in the 4x100 as they won by nearly a whole second. After breaking the school record last Monday at Pella, the Trojans dropped 0.04 off of their time again. Their time of 43.25 broke the previous school record, which lasted three days, and won the race by 0.9 seconds.
"It's really exciting," Bidwell said. "Going to state my senior year is going to be a blast. Hopefully we come away with a state championship. We had a lot of confidence going into the race, but we know one mistake could make it all go away.
"Our handoffs have been good all year," he added. "It helps having the same four guys. Hopefully we can keep it up."
Although South Tama left Grinnell with only two automatically headed to state, the possibility for other at-large bids was highly possible. STC finished third or fourth in several events and most of those were good enough to be one of the eight-best district performances and qualify them for the state meet.
Leading the way and rounding out their meet with four events are Stephenson and Davenport. Stephenson finished third in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter dash, while Davenport finished right behind him in both races. They still managed to qualify for both races.
South Tama will also be sending distance runners to the state meet in three events. Individually, seniors Clay Waterbury and Brady Ellenbecker will be running one race each. Waterbury finished third in the 800-meter run, in a time of 2:03.55. His time barely snuck in as one of the last at-large qualifiers. Ellenbecker placed third in the 1,600-meter run. His time of 4:34.03 was in the top half of the district times.
Waterbury and Ellenbecker will also be running as part of the 4x800-meter relay team. Joining them will be sophomore Robert Tyynismaa and junior Tyler Martens. The Trojans ran 8:19.25 and finished third at the district meet.
South Tama finished third as a team. STC scored 95 team points. Pella topped the team standings with 176 points to finish 25 ahead of runner-up Solon, while Oskaloosa (85.5) and host Grinnell (75.5) rounded out the top five of a talent-laden field.
"We went after what we needed to go after," coach Kuhter said. "Being here with Solon and Pella and all the other good teams, this is probably one of the best districts in the state. We knew there were going to be a lot of things on the bubble so we just went after what we went after and let the chips fall where they may."
The state meet starts on Thursday afternoon for the 3A events. It continues through Saturday afternoon. An event schedule can be found at www.iahsaa.org.