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Girls track starts strong at UD, Dickinson

COVID-19 makes it ‘wait and see’
Solon senior Gabbi Bullard, hits the finish line in her heat of the 800 meters March 9 at the UNI-Dome, during the Dickinson Relays. (photos by Joe Wilkinson)

DUBUQUE– With spring break this week, it is especially quiet in the classroom and out on the track. What lies ahead with the coronavirus pandemic should show major changes in how classroom and outside school activities are conducted through spring, in Solon, in Iowa and across the nation.
But there has been a start. For Solon’s girls, that came March 3, at the University of Dubuque. With a fourth-place finish among 20 Eastern Iowa teams, the Lady Spartans logged 40.5 points.
On the way there, they picked up first- through fifth-place points in six of the 11 indoor events.
Leaping to third place was MaKinley Levin, 16-04 in the long jump. Khaylor Fleck was seventh, at 15-08. Kaia Holtkamp’s 4-10 high jump was good for fifth place. Ava Conrad was fifth in the shot put, with a 33-07 heave. “I thought jumping started off well with Holtkamp at 4-10 and MaKinley going 16-04,” reviewed coach Brent Sands. “Khaylor Fleck had a good season start in long jump and then great leadoff runs in both the 4x200 and 4x400.”
On the track– an indoor 200-meter oval, with tighter curves and more laps to challenge runners– Meghan O’Neill hit 2:41.49 in the open 800, runner-up in the field of 28. Peyton Sands’ 9.84 in the 55-meter hurdles brought her seventh place. Nearby were teammates Sophia Stahle (9.88, ninth) and Jada Buffington (10.02, 11th) in the 36-hurdler field.
Three sophomores– Holtkamp, O’Neill and Annika Kruse, teamed with junior Kiersten Conway to post a 10:37.75 in the 4x800…good for fifth place. Holtkamp, Levin, Gabbi Bullard and Emma Bock teamed for second in the 4x400, at 4:09.79, barely a half-second behind winner Linn-Mar. “We felt very good about our 800 runners,” noted Sands. “Kaia was very good in the leadoff position… with good splits from O’Neill and Conway, too. Later, Kaia came back with a great leadoff leg in the 4x400, too.”
Fleck led off the third-place 4x200 effort (1:52.49), with Bullard, Ellie Wolff and Levin following with the baton.

Dickinson Relays
From Dubuque, it was a big jump into the March 9 UNI-Dome meet, at the University of Northern Iowa. Teams from across Iowa– Sioux Center, Des Moines, the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids corridor, as well as Waukon, Dubuque, the Quad Cities and beyond– crowded into the Dome.
At Dickinson, it was one size fits all. The smallest schools compete against the largest. Lots of entries. Lots of heats. There were 236 girls at the starting line for the 60-meter dash. Over 160 took on the open 800. That makes any top 20 or 30 finish in the most crowded races look good. And the Lady Spartans had their share. “Ellie Wolff ran pretty well in her three races,” noted Sands. “(Emma) Bock ran her first 800– a second faster than a year ago; pretty good since we have limited her workouts as she comes back from an injury.”
In the field events, Ava Conrad had a personal best– by five feet– in the shot put; her 38-4 toss good for seventh place “That was the big surprise of the day,” applauded Sands. “Ava went over 38 (feet) which puts her in the range of what Drake Relays cutoff has been the past several years.”
Gabbi Bullard’s 16-3 long jump was good for 12th. MaKinley Levin’s 15-10 was 15th among 122 entries. Bullard had already run 10.08 in the 60-meter hurdles, 24th among the 197 girls from Class 1A through 4A. Bullard’s 1:04.46 400 was 20th. “Gabbi had a solid day with a good start, to long jump going over 16 feet and then a very good first run of the year in the hurdles,” said Sands.
In the relays, Meghan O’Neill, Kerrigan Lyons, Annika Kruse and Mary Fiala teamed up 20th (of 63 quartets) in the 4x800 meter relay. Other highlights included Emma Bock’s 2:29.42 in the open 800, with Kaia Holtkamp running 15th (2:34.18) among 166 runners in crowded heats. Two freshmen got some attention. “Kerrigan Lyons stepped up in the 4x8, to show that she might want to challenge for a spot,” pointed out Sands. “Our hurdlers were solid with Sophia Stahle running very well with her first time and a new (high school) height in hurdles.”
Two Solon newcomers– sophomore Addie McQuinn and freshman Adeline Leichtman– made their debut this month, showing they will battle for spots in the sprint relays.
With no March 13 indoor WaMaC conference meet– scratched when host Grinnell College closed the campus due to coronavirus concerns– and their outdoor openers also affected by the health crisis, the girls will have at least begun their season.
Returning from spring break next week, though, the bigger question will be, will there be a season? NCAA tournaments are cancelled, as well as other events– even entire seasons– in many North American sports this spring.
“I am hopeful that we will take things a few weeks at a time,” said Sands. “If it is in the best interest of everyone to continue to suspend things then that is what we need to do.”