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 girls’ competition:
Individuals to watch — Look for a pair of sophomores — Kerris Roberts of Waterloo East and Darby Thomas of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln — to burn it up in the sprints. Despite a No. 5 seed, Payton Wensel of Linn-Mar is the cream of the crop in the 400 hurdles, and also chases her third straight open 400 title. Iowa City West’s Valerie Welch will challenge Thomas in the long jump and Wensel in the 400 hurdles, and is the favorite in the 100 hurdles.
Team-race analysis — The record for points at a state meet is 126, set last year by Davenport Assumption in 3A. Waukee is projected to score in the 120s, and the Warriors are a heavy favorite to capture their fourth 4A title in the last six years. The Warriors are seeded to score in 15 events, including double points in five. Iowa City West is the only team that can challenge Waukee. The Women of Troy have an ace in Welch, and ought to rack up a lot of points in the throws and the distance events. Linn-Mar, Pleasant Valley and Southeast Polk are the top candidates to snag the third-place trophy.
Projected top five — 1. Waukee, 2. Iowa City West, 3. Linn-Mar, 4. Pleasant Valley, 5. Southeast Polk.
Individuals to watch — Four-time defending champion Davenport Assumption has a mini-galaxy of stars led by Joy Ripslinger, who will go the individual route this week; she’s among the favorites in the 400, 800, 1,500 and 3,000. She’ll be tested in the two longer races by Ellie Friesen of Crestwood and Adrianna Katcher of Center Point-Urbana. Grace Martensen of Benton Community is the top hurdler in the class and will participate on Benton’s strong sprint relays. Keaton Kester of Adel ADM is the No. 1 seed in the 100 and 200.
Team-race analysis — An unprecedented fifth consecutive title is a probability for Davenport Assumption, but not a slam dunk. Based solely on regional results, Pella is projected to outscore the Knights, 85-77. Pella is an extremely deep team, projected to score in 12 events. Assumption counters with its star power of Ripslinger, sprinter Carly King and distance runner Julia Schumacher. Dubuque Wahlert placed its eggs in the relay basket, and is seeded No. 1 in five of them. Decorah always performs well at state, and Benton Community has some excellent events lined up for Saturday.
Projected top five — 1. Davenport Assumption, 2. Pella, 3. Dubuque Wahlert, 4. Decorah, 5. Benton Community.
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Individuals to watch — Pardon the pun, but Mid-Prairie will get a lot of mileage out of the Hostetler sisters. Anna is a junior and Marie is a freshman, and both are dynamite. They’re seeded 1-2 in the 3,000 and the 1,500, and 1-4 in the 800. They’ll also run in the 3,200 relay. Rylan Santi of Madrid is the favorite in the 100 and 200, and Lisa Tucker of Cascade is the top seed in the 100-meter dash and will anchor the Cougars’ highly touted shuttle hurdle relay. Grace Proesch of North Cedar brings in the top regional time in the 400, and makes the Knights a threat in the sprint medley relay and 1,600 relay.
Team-race analysis — All hail the River Valley Conference. It’s well within the realm of possibility that four of the top five teams will bear RVC affiliation. Defending-champion Cascade is the favorite to capture its fourth title in six years. The Cougars are seeded to score in 12 events, and carry top seeds in five of them (including four relays). The Hostetler distance bonanza makes Mid-Prairie the best bet for second, and middle-distance prowess ought to push Monticello into the trophy hunt. A regional team champion, North Cedar is top-five material.
Projected top five — 1. Cascade, 2. Mid-Prairie, 3. Monticello, 4. Pocahontas Area, 5. North Cedar.
Individuals to watch — Call it Barthelmania, and it makes Sigourney a definite championship contender. The Barthelman sisters — Autum (a junior) and Summer (a sophomore) — are projected as top seeds in three individual events, and are on the Savages’ shuttle hurdle relay which also is No. 1. Autum is favored in the 100 and the 100 hurdles, and Summer has posted the best regional time in the 400 hurdles and ranks No. 3 in the long jump. Rylee Menster of Springville brings in the top time in the 200 and is No. 4 in the long jump.
Team-race analysis — If the Barthelman sisters match their lofty seeds, Sigourney will score 50 points or more, and that will put the Savages in the title race. Mapleton MVAO matches Sigourney with four No. 1 seeds (both medleys, the 400-meter dash and 1,600 relay). Sioux Central has no top seeds, but is projected to score in eight events. If the Rebels can surpass their seeds, they could enter into the picture.
Projected top five — 1. Sigourney, 2. Mapleton MVAO, 3. Sioux Central, 4. Pekin, 5. Grundy Center.
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