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DES MOINES — The state track and field meet begins at 9 a.m. Thursday and runs through Saturday at Drake Stadium.
The following is a primer on the boys’ competition:
Individuals to watch — Joah Banks of Cedar Rapids Prairie has blossomed into one of the best hurdlers in state history. He’s the defending state champion and the Drake Relays champ in the 110-meter highs. Iowa City West’s Derek Nugent blazed to a 1:55.52 effort in the district 800, and is a member of the Trojans’ top-seeded 1,600-meter relay. Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Jackson Coker is the defending champion in the discus, and Dan Blocker spearheads Waukee’s sprints.
Team-race analysis — Waukee appeared to be the cream of the 4A crop for most of the season. But Iowa City West was outstanding at its district meet, and the Trojans actually are seeded to outscore the Warriors this week. If it comes down to the final event — and it could — know that West and Waukee are seeded 1-2 in the 1,600 relay. Western Dubuque has burst onto the scene as a power — the Bobcats were Drake Relays champions in the 400- and 800-meter relays — and it’s conceivable that it could take home a trophy, though Bettendorf and field-event factory Cedar Rapids Kennedy, among others, will have a say as well.
Projected top five — 1. Waukee, 2. Iowa City West, 3. Western Dubuque, 4. Bettendorf, 5. Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Individuals to watch — Plenty of star power in this class. Mount Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs — the Drake Relays champion in the shot put and the discus — sustained a sprained ankle at districts, but gutted it out to win both of those events. Isaiah Trousil of West Burlington-Notre Dame is a firm favorite in the 100 and 200, and will spearhead the Falcons’ sprint relays. Myles Bach of Marion is the defending 3A champion in the 1,600 and 3,200, and is favored to defend that double. Teammate Blair Brooks is a threat in both jumping events. JoJo Frost of Center Point-Urbana is the top seed in the 400 hurdles and ranks No. 3 in the 400. Also watch for him in the sprint medley and 1,600-meter relay.
Team-race analysis — After chasing Western Dubuque two weeks ago (conference) and Dubuque Wahlert last Thursday (district), Marion and Mount Vernon are in close quarters again, and this time, the 3A state championship is at stake. Both teams are capable of scoring 70 points. Marion figures to score big behind Bach and Jeremy Fopma in the distance events and Brooks in the jumps, while Wirfs (if healthy) is a 20-point lock in the throws for Mount Vernon. The Mustangs also have a superb middle-distance crew. The Indians, meanwhile, could have a bonus with their sprint relays. Sergeant Bluff-Luton could make a run at the top if it outperforms its district seeds.
Projected top five — 1. Marion, 2. Mount Vernon, 3. Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 4. Dallas Center-Grimes, 5. Dubuque Wahlert.
Individuals to watch — It’s a possibility that Madrid’s Michael Santi could leave Drake Stadium with four golds. He is the favorite in the 100-meter dash, the 110-meter hurdles and the long jump, and seeded third in the 200. Nick Phelps of KP-WC is the top seed in the discus and ranks second to Iowa City Regina’s Jared Brinkman in the shot put. Miles Rupiper of Carroll Kuemper cleared 6-10 in the high jump at districts, and is the No. 2 seed in the long jump.
Team-race analysis — Madrid has the star individuals, and Albia counters with some elite sprint relays. Santi’s sprinting prowess ought to net 35-40 points for Madrid, which also has the potential for significant points from distance guy Sean McDermott and thrower Coy Kirkpatrick. Albia is top-seeded in five events, including the 400-, 800- and 1,600-meter relays. Jacob Clouse (200) and Kyle Sinnott (400) also carry the favorite’s tag. With Phelps and a strong middle-distance corps, KP-WC is the most likely team to challenge the Tigers and the Blue Demons.
Projected top five — 1. Madrid, 2. Albia, 3. KP-WC, 4. Anamosa, 5. Dike-New Hartford.
Individuals to watch — Central Lyon’s Gable Sieperda is the class of the small-school distance field. He is the top seed in the 800 and the 1,600, and ranked second in the 3,200. On the other end of the scale, A.J. Lefler of Lawton-Bronson leads the field in the 100 and 200. Lisbon’s Jack Butteris is the top seed in the 400 and will be an instrumental cog on the Lions’ relays. Cole Moeller of Calamus-Wheatland cleared 6 feet, 9 inches in the district high jump.
Team-race analysis — Lisbon doesn’t have a track, but it has a dominant track program. The Lions have won the last two championships in 1A, and are favored to grab gold again this week. Pekin appears to be the only legitimate challenger. Three relays may prove pivotal: Lisbon and Pekin both are seeded in the top three of the 1,600- and 3,200-meter relays, plus the distance medley. Lisbon is the leader in the sprint medley, and Pekin is No. 1 in the 400 relay. The difference may ultimately come in the 400, where Butteris and Blake Langhurst are seeded 1-2 for the Lions. Hudson, Central Lyon and Sigourney should battle for the third-place trophy.
Projected top five — 1. Lisbon, 2. Pekin, 3. Central Lyon, 4. Hudson, 5. Sigourney.
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