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Tipton produces rays of hope for Spartans

Slim preseason for Spartan track and field
Luke Ira kicks in the afterburners at the start of his anchor leg in the shuttle hurdle relay on Tuesday, March 28, at the Tipton Early Bird Coed Relays. The team of Bo Black, Thomas Brandt, A.J. Coons and Ira took seventh in the event with a time of 1:07.43. (photo by Jeff Hess)

TIPTON– The sun shrugged off the clouds briefly on Tuesday, March 28, much as the athletes did with their sweats taking to the track and field, at the opening of the boys’ outdoor season in Tipton.
The drive out to the meet saw windshields peppered with specks of moisture as the thermometer read 52 degrees, threatening a cloudy, damp and cold start to the season, but that all changed.
The spirits of the athletes elevated with the crack of the starting guns and the call to report for the respective competitions and the weather responded. Albeit brisk, the sounds of spring were in the air as the Solon boys competed, alongside the girls team, outdoors in their first coed meet, the Tipton Early Bird Coed Relays.
Coach Mark Sovers said, with a wry smile, it was early in the season and not everyone was available as he hustled to meet with a group of athletes.
“Everyone has their own story or set of circumstances, we are no different,” Sovers noted later via email. “Early in the season the role our athletes take on may look different than they will as we move through the track season. Each role is important to the success of our team and we are fortunate to be able to build the kind of depth we will need throughout our lineup early in the year.”
Sovers also pointed out, “There will be a lot of opportunities early for everyone on our team to step in and compete. We know the role our returning letter winners will play. The challenge comes in the underclassmen developing their role and that is what the first part of the season is all about, finding out and valuing each other’s role.”
Sovers said the squad is fortunate to have leadership in three areas– the throws, middle distance and sprints.
“That is what makes this year unique from years past,” he noted. “With 52 athletes out for track this year, we look forward to developing into a very competitive track team led by our leaders throughout the year. In years past, we had more experience throughout our lineup.”
The Spartans opened their season two weeks prior at an indoor meet on Saturday, March 18, in Mount Vernon at Cornell College, competing in the WaMaC Conference Indoor Meet. Coach Sovers said they had limited representation there, as well, with many athletes finishing out their spring break.
At the WaMaC Indoor, competing on a limited card, underclassmen stepped up to be counted. Junior Luke Ira was the top finisher for the Solon boys capturing first place in the 60-meter hurdles in 8.57. In the 60 meters, sophomore Hunter Kula finished eighth (7.74), freshman Lucas Walker 28th (8.65), and freshman Brady Stotler took 30th (8.94). In the 200 meter, freshman Jack Bell captured sixth with his 25.39. The 800 meter saw junior Eli McInnis run to an eighth-place finish with a 2:24.88 and a 10th-place finish (5:18.16) in the 1,600 meter with sophomore Jorel Justice finishing 20th (5:37.89).
On the track in the relays, the 4x200 team of Kula, freshman Braxton Hobbs, freshman Jack Bell and freshman Thomas Brandt finished 12th posting a 1:44.14 and the 1,600 meter distance-medley relay team of Kula, Hobbs, Justice, and Brandt ran to a sixth-place finish in 4:21.81.
In the WaMaC Indoor field events, Ira took first place honors in the long jump posting a 19-8 1/2. Kula captured 10th place with a leap of 16-9 1/2. The shot put saw Spartans capture three of the top 10 positions, with sophomore Coal Flansburg fourth (45-5), junior Luke Schaeckenbach sixth (43-8), and sophomore Rocky Lensing threw 41-11 1/2 good for 10th place.
Coach Sovers his expectations were to be consistent up and down the lineup.
“This year will start with field events specifically the throwing events,” Sovers noted. “We will look for leadership from Jackson Walker, Jake Coons and Tyler Linderbaum early with their experience and being returning state participants. Returning letter-winners also include Coal Flansburg.”
Running events will start with the middle distance runners.
Graeson Dall returns after placing fifth in the 4x800, setting the school record in the 800-meter dash and also qualifying in the open 400.”
Other returning letter-winners include Grant Goldsberry, Austin Kennedy, Trevor McGill, Tanner Larkey and Carl Richey.
Bo Black and Luke Ira will lead the sprints, Sovers said.
Both return after qualifying for the state meet in the hurdles and the sprint relays. Returning letter-winners include Payton Bandy, Matt Folkerts, Kendrick Harris, Storm Scott, Isaac Vang and Spencer Wegmann. Returning sophomores include Adam Bock and Hunter Kula.
With the first outdoor meet cancelled Saturday, March 25, due to weather, it made the Tipton High School Early Bird Coed the first outdoor competition on the boys’ 2017 season.
In the Spartans’ track events, Luke Ira was Solon’s top finisher, taking second in the 110-meter hurdles in 16.35. In the 100-meter dash, Kendrick Harris finished 11th (12.39), Kula took 14th (12.42) and Stotler nabbed 30th (13.94) in the 37-runner field. The 200-meter dash saw Jackson Pipolo capture 13th (26.11), Kula grabbed 16th (26.55), and Matt Folkerts took 18th (26.95) in a field of 32. Dillon Jeworrek, Solon’s only competitor in the 800-meter run, captured 21st. Carl Richey ran to a ninth-place finish in the 1,600-meter run with a 5:14.02. Justus captured 11th place in the 3,200-meter run with his 11:25.42. And, Thomas Brandt took 14th in the 400-meter hurdles.
In Solon’s field events, Coal Flansburg’s shot put distance of 48-8 placed him in third, making him Solon’s top finisher. Rocky Lensing threw the shot to a 11th-place finish (40-4 1/4) and Adam Runyan finished 18th (37-4). Solon discus throwers garnered three of the top 11 spots. Jake Coons and Schaeckenbach grabbed fifth (133-0) and sixth (128-11) respectively, and Grant Kollar was 11th (115-5). A.J. Coons jumped to a height of 5-6 to tie for seventh place. Solon’s long jumpers occupied three of the top 10 positions, with Peyton Stahle sixth (17-11 1/2), Ryan Geistkemper seventh (17-8), and Kula 10th (16-3).
In the relays, the 4x100 team of Bo Black, Harris, Storm Scott and Luke Ira surged back to a sixth-place finish (47.53) and the team of Cam Miller, Trey Stebral, Lucas Walker and Jack Bell finished 15th (51.50) in the 21-team field. Solon 4x200 meter relay teams took two of the top eight positions in the field of 19 teams. The team of Dillon Holt, Jackson Pipilo, Ryan Geistkemper and Adam Bock tied for sixth place (1:41.07) while Braxton Hobbs, Jack Bell, Payton Herdliska and A.J. Coons snatched eighth place (1:41.59). The 4x400 meter relay team of Kendrick Harris, Dillon Hoit, Ryan Geistemper and Adam Bock ran to an eighth-place finish (3:55.95) while Thomas Brandt, Jack Bell, Braeden Bair, and A.J. Coons took 13th place (4:03.73).
The sun had set by the time the team tallies were totaled, and Mount Vernon (134), Anamosa (92) and Cascade (83) were the top three finishers. They were followed by Central DeWitt (73), Regina (48), Tipton (34), North Cedar (33), Beckman (26.5), Wilton (24), and Solon (20.5) to round out the top 10. West Branch (13) and Midland (8) completed the field of competing teams.
The cold accompanied the night as the meet drew to an end, reminding the competitors the reason the Tipton meet earned its Early Bird moniker. It also served as a motivator, reminding the athletes there are a lot of meets before the culmination of the season at Drake’s blue oval in May.
When asked what the two meets contributed as building blocks for the season, Coach Sovers responded the biggest positive from early in the season was the team’s ability to invest in and challenge each other.
“Their ability to be unselfish and find a way to fit into the team concept will truly define their success this year,” he stated. “The first two meets highlighted for us that we have events we will use as our foundation (throws, middle distance). They will allow us time to grow and develop the successful tradition of our sprints.”
The Spartan track and field season continued Monday, April 3, at the Williamsburg Coed Relays. The boys travel to West High, in Iowa City, for the Trojan Invitational on Saturday, April 8, at 10:30 a.m., and then it is off to the Ruth Ahrens Invitational at Iowa Valley in Marengo on Tuesday, April 11, with a start of 4:45 p.m. The Spartans finish the second week of April at the Brady Street Stadium in Davenport for the Davenport North Coed Relays, starting at 4 p.m.