Prep Track and Field

Iowa boys' track and field: 5 things to watch, maybe, for the 2020 season

COVID-19 pandemic has the season pushed back to April 13, at least

Williamsburg's Kaden Wetjen runs to the finish to clinch the win for the Raiders during the Class 2A 400-meter relay at
Williamsburg’s Kaden Wetjen runs to the finish to clinch the win for the Raiders during the Class 2A 400-meter relay at the 2019 state track and field meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Wetjen returns, and the Raiders look like early 2A state-title contenders. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

On the calendar, the Iowa high school track and field season is scheduled to conclude in just under two months.

In reality, though ... who knows?

Spring sports are shut down through April 13, at least, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Drake Relays have been postponed.

The climax of the season — conference, state-qualifying and state meets — is wait-and-see.

If, in fact, we have a boys’ track and field season, whether it’s shortened or delayed, here are five things to watch.

1. What's next for Western Dubuque?

After big breakthroughs in 2017 (third place in Class 4A) and 2019 (fourth), Western Dubuque faces a year of transition.

The Bobcats graduated most of their top point gatherers from last year. The exception is senior Will Burds, who placed sixth in the 400-meter hurdles last year and was a member of the place-winning 400- and 1,600-meter relays.

Tom Jasper has made Western Dubuque an immediate heavyweight in the Mississippi Valley Conference. He successfully reloaded after the 2017 team was gutted by graduation. Now, he’ll try to do it again.

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2. Metro distance stars

You saw them out at the front of the pack throughout the cross country season.

Now, they’ll take their act to the asphalt.

Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Jack Pendergast, Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Jacob Green and Linn-Mar’s Dylan Dolezal — all seniors — give the Metro three potential distance aces.

It was Dolezal that made the big splash last year at state, finishing second in a steamy 3,200-meter run. Pendergast was seventh in the 1,600.

Green was beset by pneumonia last spring, but recovered in time for a third-place finish at state cross country.

3. Linn-Mar and Kennedy renew rivalry

It has grown into the most dramatic area rivalry on the track. Whenever Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Kennedy meet in the shuttle hurdle relay, it’s must-see stuff.

Kennedy captured the Drake Relays title last spring, Linn-Mar was second. At state, the Lions finished third (behind West Des Moines Valley and Ankeny), and the Cougars were fourth.

 

Both teams return three legs from their state quartets. Seniors Jaxon Thompson and Carson Reilly return for the Lions, along with junior Abass Kemokai, but ace Trent Davis has graduated and is now at UNI.

Kennedy counters with senior Makhi Harris and juniors Drew Bartels and Brody Lovell.

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4. Most likely to succeed: Williamsburg

Williamsburg was the highest boys’ finisher in the area last year, placing second in Class 2A. And the Raiders are the most likely area squad to bring home some hardware this time around.

Senior Kaden Wetjen spearheads a top-flight sprinting crew. Wetjen was second in the 200-meter dash last year and third in the 100.

Wetjen is one of three returners — Seth Dellamuth and Drake Powell are the others — that will try to defend their 2A title in the 800-meter relay. Wetjen and Powell were on the gold-medal 400 relay.

 

Williamsburg returns 27.5 of its 51 points from last year, most of anybody in 2A.

5. State track favorites

Based purely on returning state points, only one defending champion is a steady pick to repeat.

West Des Moines Valley piled up 89 points and won the 4A title by 26 last season. Graduation losses push the Tigers back to the pack somewhat, though, and Ames is poised to challenge behind a dynamite middle-distance crew.

Jorma Schwedler captured the 100, 200 and 400 last year and led Sergeant Bluff-Luton to a dominating 86-point 3A performance last year. He is back, and SBL rates as a favorite again. Atlantic should be the top challenger.

Dike-New Hartford was the 2A champion last year and returns long-jump/sprint star Parker Kiewiet, but a lot of DNH’s depth has departed, thus the spotlight shifts to Williamsburg and Bellevue.

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Last year’s 1A champ, George-Little Rock brings back 800-meter winner Payton Mauldin in its repeat bid. Fort Dodge St. Edmond returns some big relay pieces, and Wapsie Valley also has the look of a contender.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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