INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
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IOWA CITY — She has the records.
Now, Valerie Welch is chasing proverbial rings. It’s all that separates her from the top athletes that have gone through one of the state’s top track and field programs.
“The school records are nice, but I want to be a state champion, and I want to be a state record-holder,” said Welch, a senior at Iowa City West.
Welch was a high placewinner in four events at the state meet last year. She was third in the Class 4A long jump, 100- and 400-meter hurdles, and fourth in the shuttle hurdle relay.
A fine performance, to be sure. But not quite what she wanted.
“It was a good state meet, but it wasn’t a great state meet,” West Coach Mike Parker said. “She expected to win things, and that’s what drives her today.
“She has the records. One thing she doesn’t have is the state titles. I feel good about her chances.”
The championships part is the only void in an otherwise glowing resume.
Welch started crossing off West records on a windy day at her home track, when she reset the school mark in the long jump — 19 feet, 4 inches.
“From that point on, her belief and her confidence sky-rocketed,” Parker said.
Welch wasn’t done. Before the end of the season, she also eclipsed school records in both individual hurdles events, and was on the record-setting shuttle hurdle relay.
And thus, part of Parker’s prediction had been fulfilled.
“We were at the MVC Indoor meet at the UNI-Dome when Val was a freshman,” Parker said. “We had only seen her compete twice.
“After we had talked and she walked away, I told our assistants: ‘If Valerie Welch isn’t one of the best we’ve ever had, then we’ve failed.’”
Despite the lack of championships, the major colleges took note. Welch finally decided on the University of Colorado, which also matched her academic needs.
The owner of a 4.0 grade point average and a 34 ACT score, Welch intends to major in engineering.
“On my visit, I really liked it. I felt comfortable,” Welch said. “When I was in the airport, I thought, ‘This is a place I’d really like to be.’”
Despite her elite status, Welch doesn’t act like a big-timer. She helps load and unload the bus when the Women of Troy travel out of town, usually a task for the freshmen.
Last fall, she ran cross country, though she was a middle-of-the-pack JV runner, just to stay in shape.
“She’s a unique girl,” Parker said. “A great thing is watching her develop leadership and knowledge of the sport.
“Arguably, she’s one of the best we’ve ever had. Now she’s just got to add the (championships).”
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