DES MOINES - In addition to the relay state championship, the South Tama County boys track and field team had its highest finish at the Iowa Coed State Championship on Saturday.
Aside from the Trojans 4x100-meter relay state title, they competed in seven events, medaled in three of those seven events and finished in the top 15 of all teams in Class 3A. The Trojans scored 21 team points, which tied them for 14th place with Spirit Lake Park and Marion.
"We trained this class for this day," head coach George Kuhter said. "This is the highest we've finished at the state track meet. We scored a bunch of points. You do it with kids like all of these seniors. They were little kids in my house and they'd talk about how one day they were going to Des Moines and they were going to win a trophy. To have them have such a special season their last year and to close it out like this is special.
South Tama County senior Sam Kuhter set his best mark of 20 feet, 10 inches on this preliminary attempt Friday at the Iowa Coed State Track and Field Championships. Kuhter medaled in the event with a seventh-place finish.
"The icing on the cake is coaching my son to be a state placer," he added. "How many coaches get to coach their son to a state medal? That was extremely special and most years, I'd take that. I just can't be happier for the kids. We've worked a long time for this."
South Tama had two individuals who medaled at the state meet, in addition to the relay squad who medaled twice. Senior Sam Kuhter competed in the long jump for the second-straight year, but had better showing his second time around. On his second jump in the preliminary round, he jumped 20 feet, 10 inches, which boosted him to second in the flight. He finished second in the first flight, but had to wait for 12 more jumpers to see if he would be one of the final eight.
"It was pretty stressful to have to sit there and wait to figure out if I would make the finals," said Kuhter, who finished just a half inch shy of his personal best. "It seemed like a long time, of course when you're waiting for something like that - it seems like forever."
His wait paid off as he qualified for the finals with the seventh-best jump. Unfortunately, Kuhter couldn't improve his mark in the finals. He finished seventh in the event and earned his first-ever state medal.
"It definitely feels good, since it's my senior year and I jumped here last year," S. Kuhter said. "My goal was to at least make the finals and get a medal. I also wanted to score some points for the team to see how many we could get this weekend.
"I know I scratched a couple of 21s by less than an inch," he said. "But if 20-10 is going to get me into the top eight at state, I won't complain about it."
South Tama's other individual medalist was senior Kyle Stephenson, who earned his second state medal. A year ago, Stephenson placed sixth in the 100-meter dash. This year, he snuck into the finals of the 200-meter dash with the eighth-fastest time last Thursday with a time of 22.87.
On Saturday, Stephenson improved two spots and finished sixth in the 200 dash finals, running the race in 22.84 seconds.
"Anytime you move up from your seed, it's a good feeling," Stephenson said. "I'm just happy to be out here running and getting a medal. It's a great feeling.
"I started off as fast as I can and tried to hold on as long as I can," he added. "I think I did. My goal was not to get last, since I was seeded last, so it came out good. I think I got a good start. I think the wind started blowing a bit down the homestretch. It pushes those little guys back, but that's when I run my best."
The Trojans coach was happy for both of his seniors, who medaled as individuals.
"Last year, after the state meet, they got in the weight room and did everything right," Kuhter said of Stephenson and his son.. "Kyle was sleeping on our couch to make sure he's up for summer lifting. Sam was doing what he was doing. Honestly, I couldn't be happier for those two. Kyle is like one of my kids. He's part of our family, so it's extra special."
Stephenson, along with senior Kaleb Davenport, also narrowly missed the finals of the 100 dash last Thursday. Davenport finished ninth in a time of 11.54, while Stephenson placed 10th (11.56), both missing the final cut of eight. In addition, Davenport placed 13th in the 200 dash prelims, running the race in 23.22 seconds.
However, Davenport and Stephenson joined senior Daryl Bidwell and junior Dylan Kalinay on the 4x200-meter relay. The Trojans' relay came into the state meet with the top 3A team. They improved their season-best time and ran the race in a 1:29.78, but finished third. Le Mars won the relay for the second-straight year and Pella placed second.
South Tama also competed in three distance races at state. Senior Brady Ellenbecker, sophomore Robert Tyynismaa, junior Tyler Martens and senior Clay Waterbury joined together to run the 4x800-meter relay. The Trojans placed 20th in a time of 8:26.7.
Ellenbecker, in his fourth year of state qualification, competed in the 1,600-meter run. He finished 18th in the race, running 4:38.84. Waterbury ran his first-ever individual race at state when he competed in the 800-meter run. Waterbury ran a personal-best time of 2:02.89 but finished 24th in the 3A race.
"I knew the first 200 and 400 meters would be a lot faster than I was used to," Waterbury said. "I tried to stay in the back of the pack and run my lap like I normally would run it.
"My goal was to PR, because I knew I didn't have a shot at medaling," he said. "I'm just really excited that I was able to run my last race at Drake Stadium. It's nice to finish on a high note with a PR."