Panthers positioned for big things

Mt. Pleasant expected to score points right away at state track

GTNS file photo

Abby Ryon will represent Mt. Pleasant in both the 3000-meter run on Thursday and the 1500-meter run on Saturday.
GTNS file photo Abby Ryon will represent Mt. Pleasant in both the 3000-meter run on Thursday and the 1500-meter run on Saturday.

DES MOINES — It’s almost time for the best track and field athletes around to meet at the Blue Oval in Des Moines. Mt. Pleasant, New London, Winfield-Mt. Union and WACO will all be in action this weekend for the 2019 state track and field meet.

There are plenty of area athletes that come into the state meet with high seeds, so today we highlight some of the area’s favorites over the three-day stretch.

Both the Mt. Pleasant boys’ and girls’ teams are set up for potential individual titles, both in the field and on the track.

The boys’ team could grab points right away on Thursday when two of their top dogs go in the first two hours of the meet. Sam Beatty will be competing in the high jump at 9 a.m., and Cody Mertens will run the 3200 at 10:10 a.m.

Beatty has been been one of the best high jumpers all year, and has the fourth seed in 3A after the state qualifier. Beatty jumped 6-5 in the qualifier, just behind Fairfield’s Landon Koiker, who leaped a 6-7.

Koiker and Beatty are two of three Class 3A athletes who had jumped 6-7 going in to the state qualifying meet. South Tama’s Keith Keahna has also jumped 6-7. Denison-Schelswig’s Waw Gach comes in as the No. 1 seed after being the first 3A leaper to clear 6-8 at the state qualifier.

Mertens, who comes in as the defending state cross-country champion in the class, will come in as the No. 3 seed, running 9:56.17 at the qualifier. Algona’s Trey Engen ran a 9:50.13 to lead the field coming in to state. Gus Hayes of Decorah finished just ahead of Mertens, qualifying with a time of 9:56.11.

Mertens will also have a shot in the 1600 on Saturday. He is the No. 3 seed there as well, with a qualifying time of 4:33.44. Craig Alan Becker of Atlantic is the top seed with a time of 4:31.17, and Engen is the No. 2 seed, at 4:32.24.

Zach Beason is just out of the top five in the discus throw. He’ll come in as the No. 6 seed, qualifying at 154. He could score some more points for Mt. Pleasant in the early stages.

The Panther girls have a good shot at grabbing early points with Abby Ryon in the 3000-meter run, which takes place at 9:40 a.m. on Thursday. Ryon has perhaps the best potential of any area athletes after qualifying top two in both the 3000 and the 1500.

In the 3000, Ryon ran a 10:46.29 for second best in 3A. Grace Juhl of Iowa Falls-Aiden ran a ridiculous 10:32.97 to qualify first. Ryon is the No. 1 qualifier in the 1500, which takes place on Saturday. She qualified in 4:54.93, which is over three seconds better than Megan Sterbenz of Dallas Center-Grimes, who was the second-best qualifier at 4:58.03.

Ryon isn’t the only area runner who has a shot at scoring points in the girls’ 3000. Lexi Brown of New London comes in with the sixth-best qualifying time in Class 1A, running an 11:09.65. She qualified just outside of the top 10 in Saturday’s 1500, qualifying 11th, at 5:14.24.

A handful of high seeds will also attempt to qualify in their preliminary races on Thursday. The shuttle hurdle relay teams will run their qualifiers. The boys’ team qualified sixth, finishing in 1:01.44. Carlisle, the team that edged Mt. Pleasant for first in last year’s final, is the top qualifier at 1:00.25.

Winfield-Mt. Union’s best chances for points are in the boys’ sprints, thanks in large part to Brandon Snowden. He comes in to Thursday’s preliminaries with the second-best 200-meter dash time at 22.66 seconds. Teammate Juanito Piper and New London’s Keontae Lucket will also be in those prelims, qualifying 9th and 11th respectively.

Snowden will then try and qualify in the 100-meter dash later in the day. He qualified in 11.28 seconds, which was third best in that race.

Thursday’s races are just the start of what should be an eventful weekend at the track. Friday will see the weekend’s debut of Mt. Pleasant’s Lexi Magnani, who is seeded second in the girls’ shot put, as well as Maggie Cristoforo, who qualified fourth in the 400-meter hurdles. Rylan Seberg and Lyndi Vantiger will take part in the long jump competition after qualifying sixth and seventh respectively, and Chase Lamm will look to qualify for the 110-meter high hurdle finals after picking up the fourth-best time in the state qualifier last weekend.

That all adds up to a busy Saturday, which will see a handful of finals in all classes, as well as the final tallies in the team races.