DES MOINES - While redemption was in the back of their minds, members of the South Tama County boys track 4x100-meter relay were more focused on staying status quo Saturday afternoon.
Last year's ninth-place finish in the race was tough to deal with a year ago after the Trojans entered the state meet with the third-fastest time in Class 3A. Three of the four runners experienced heartache last year, but this year they weren't chasing anyone.
South Tama came into the meet with the fastest 3A time, 43.25 seconds, which it ran at the Grinnell district meet. On Friday, STC dropped that time and school record down to 43.02, more than four-tenths ahead of the second-best time.
The South Tama County boys track and field 4x100-meter relay won the Class 3A state championship Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The Trojans won with a time of 42.87, which once again set a new school record. Relay members, from left, are senior Kyle Stephenson, senior Daryl Bidwell, junior Dylan Kalinay and senior Kaleb Davenport.
The pressure of the best time lingered in the Trojans minds Saturday. They knew they to run their race like they had all spring. That's exactly what they did en route to winning the race and state championship with a time of 42.87 at the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium Saturday.
"Last year, we were really trying to go for it and it was a disappointing end to the year," senior Daryl Bidwell said. "We set our minds that we were going to go for it and we didn't want anything less than that. We knew we couldn't expect it to come to us. We had to work for it."
The Trojans had to make only one change from the 2012 squad. Their leadoff leg Brody Boldt graduated last year. They found his replacement in a first-year track star. Senior Kaleb Davenport hadn't been out for track before, but this winter decided to give it a shot.
"During basketball season, someone told me Kaleb's coming out for track," head coach George Kuhter said. "I knew he'd be a great addition, but you don't want to get your hopes up too high. Then on the first day of track, he showed up. I talked to him and he said, 'I'll do whatever I have to do. I know I haven't been out before.'
"He worked his way into that 4x100 spot by just performing," he said. "You can't argue with a kid like that. If we would have had him out for four years, lord knows what we would have done. He's a great addition. You have to love the kid, because he's hard-working, he's agreeable and he'll do anything you tell him to do."
Davenport instantly found himself a spot on the Trojans' relays. The leadoff role has been one he's cherished since the beginning of the season.
"I just saw how good they did last year and I knew they were going to lose (Boldt) so I just came out," Davenport said. "We just started to click and it felt really good."
The Trojans wish they could have talked Davenport into running track sooner.
"We told him to go out every year, but I don't know why he never came out until now," junior Dylan Kalinay said. "He always regrets not going out (earlier)."
With the speedy Davenport out for track, the Trojans needed to perfect their first handoff, from Davenport to Kalinay. The other three handoffs remained the same from the 2012 squad. They didn't need much time either.
"It's kind of been weighing heavy on our minds," Kuhter said of last year's disappointment. "We added Kaleb this year and didn't change anything else. That's another reason why we continued to get faster and faster. As soon as Dylan got used to getting the baton from Kaleb, it was all over. They work really well together and they're good friends off of the track."
South Tama's relay dominance began week ago at the North Iowa Cedar League meet, where STC easily won the race. One week later, STC broke the school record. Three days later at the district meet, South Tama improved its time once again. Then came Friday evening at the state meet where STC finished 0.45 seconds ahead of second-place Bishop Heelan in the preliminary race.
Senior Kyle Stephenson was the only relay member with a race on Saturday. Senior Daryl Bidwell, Davenport and Kalinay were forced to sit around all day waiting and thinking about their race. Then came time to get redemption on the track.
The race was very close through the first three legs. Stephenson recevied the baton from Bidwell with a slight lead. He ran into a headwind, but he wasn't about to get passed.
"Right when I got the handoff, I knew no one was going to pass me," Stephenson said. "I just kept going. I heard the fans cheering. I was just stoked."
Stephenson immediately darted toward the infield after winning the race. He found Davenport first and they exchanged hugs. Then came Kalinay and Bidwell.
"It's unbelievable," Bidwell said. "I've been looking forward to it all year. We didn't want to get our heads big or anything, but just keep working hard. For some reason, the last four or five races, we just keep lowering our time. We don't know why, but it keeps getting lower and lower.
"It means so much," he said. "We tried to get (Davenport) to come out the last three years, but he thought baseball was more important. He finally came out and it really helped us a lot. Going out with these guys, who I've been going to school with for about 12 years now, is really awesome. I'm so proud of these guys."
The Trojans were so overcome with excitement that it was hard for them to put their feelings into words after the race.
"I can't even explain it right now," Davenport said. "It's just crazy. We just did what we did all year and everything worked out. Kyle likes running into the headwind and I think that played out big for us today."
Stephenson was also at a loss for words.
"It's truly amazing to get it on the very last race possible," Stephenson said of the state championship. "I'm speechless. It compares to nothing else. I'm happy to be with all of these guys. I can't say anything else, but it's just awesome."
For the lone junior, it was a simple feeling.
"I feel like I'm on top of the world," Kalinay said.
The title didn't surprise the Trojans' coach. He knew this team could do it, because of their work ethic.
"We just let them roll the way they did," Kuhter said. "The thing they have to do is understand the consistency from the very first time they ran at the beginning of the year until now. They just kept improving and the weather, too. They also continued to work hard. We're not the cockiest bunch, but we're very blue-collar. We just go out there and do what we have to do. When we do it, we do it well. We were waiting for great weather and we've got it the last three meets. They keep breaking the school record and it's breaking my pocketbook."