We’re into May now. Points matter.
“This is one meet in which you want to maximize points as much as you can,” said Kory Winsor, boys’ track and field coach at Benton Community. “We’re at the point (in the season) that we want to put some things together and see what we can do for districts, but (Thursday), we’ll be going for points.”
Most area conferences will be holding their championship meets Thursday. The Mississippi Valley Conference meets are split by division and gender — Mississippi Division boys are at Cedar Falls, girls at Iowa City High; Valley Division boys are at Cedar Rapids Prairie, girls at Dubuque.
The other area league meets are co-ed and not split by division. Benton is one of the top boys’ contenders in the Wamac Conference meet at DeWitt. Camanche will host the River Valley competition, and Edgewood the Tri-Rivers meet.
Elsewhere, the Northeast Iowa Conference meet is at Cresco, and the Upper Iowa Conference schools will congregate at Guttenberg.
Winsor is in his eighth year as the Benton boys’ coach, and the Bobcats’ best finish during his tenure was seventh place. This year, he has a squad that can challenge for a league championship.
“We’ll put together what fits best for us,” he said. “We’ll kind of build things, deciding where we want to put Blake Osborn, then decide things from there.
“And in the events without Blake, we’ll compete well there. I think it shows what kind of depth we have.”
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Benton is one of a handful of teams — joining Center Point-Urbana, Marion, Clear Creek Amana, Williamsburg and Mount Vernon — expected to battle for the Wamac boys’ crown. The girls’ race doesn’t figure to be as dramatic; Solon is a heavy favorite.
Western Dubuque left the Wamac to join the MVC this year, and the Bobcats are boys’ favorites in the Mississippi Division, while Cedar Falls’ girls are the team to beat.
It’s more complex in the Valley Division, where Linn-Mar and Iowa City West are co-favorites in both the boys’ and girls’ races.
“I think it will be us and West, and you can’t overlook (Iowa City) Liberty,” Linn-Mar girls’ coach Nathan Hopp said. “I’ve been impressed with them all year. In some events, they’re going to score really big.”
Hopp knew before the season that his team had talent and depth, but said, “I’ve been really surprised by our freshmen, how well they have fit in already.”
Time & site: 4:30 p.m.; girls at Iowa City High, boys at Cedar Falls
Overview: Western Dubuque makes its MVC track debut, and for the boys, it should result in a divisional championship. Will Burds is a contender in the 200, 400 and 400 hurdles, Damon Jaeger was the Drake Relays long jump runner-up and the Bobcats are stacked in the field events. Western Dubuque’s chief competition is likely to come from Cedar Falls and Iowa City High. Led by Drake 800 champ Mackenzie Michael, Cedar Falls is a heavy favorite in the girls’ competition, with City High and Cedar Rapids Prairie vying for second. City’s Caroline Schaeckenbach was the Drake runner-up in the 400-meter hurdles.
Time & site: 4:30 p.m.; girls at Dubuque, boys at C.R. Prairie
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Overview: Both races could come down to the wire, and both should follow a similar path, with Linn-Mar and Iowa City West battling for the crown. Linn-Mar’s boys are seeded in the top two in all seven relays, and that might be enough to push the Lions past the Trojans in a race that also might include Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Dubuque Wahlert. Linn-Mar’s Trent Davis was the Drake champion in the 110-meter hurdles, while Kennedy earned flags in the shuttle hurdle relay and from Cam Jones (discus). Give Linn-Mar the edge in the girls’ race because it is the healthier team. Like their male counterparts, the Lions should perform extremely well in the relays (the 1,600-meter foursome earned a Drake title).
Time & site: 4:30 p.m., at DeWitt
Overview: May as well crown the Solon girls now. The Spartans are top-seeded in nine events, and could score in the neighborhood of 150 points behind aces like Erin Kerkhoff, Gabbi Bullard and Emma Bock. Williamsburg and Mount Vernon are the top challengers. The boys’ competition, on the other hand, features a cluster of a half-dozen contenders. Benton Community might have an ever-so-slight edge; 400-meter ace Blake Osborn gives the Bobcats some flexibility. But the list of title possibilities is long. Center Point-Urbana, two-time defending 3A state champion Marion and Clear Creek Amana should be in the hunt, along with Williamsburg and Mount Vernon.
Time & site: 4:30 p.m., at Camanche
Overview: River Valley competitors earned title flags in three girls' events at the Drake Relays — Tipton’s Jamie Kofron swept the throws for the second straight year, and Mid-Prairie’s Marie Hostetler won the 1,500. You figure that Hostetler will be good for 40 points in whatever she is assigned to run, and the Golden Hawks have a strong sprinting corps to go along with her. That pushes Mid-Prairie into the favorite role, with league newcomer Anamosa the top challenger. Bellevue’s boys should score big distance points, and the Comets look like a title team, with Northeast and West Liberty in pursuit.
Time & site: 4 p.m., at Edgewood
Overview: Early-season numbers indicate that Maquoketa Valley and Calamus-Wheatland have two of the state’s best Class 1A boys’ programs, and those two teams will duel for the title. Cal-Wheat has a cornerstone in sprinter Raymond Venditti and a strong distance stable, but Maquoketa Valley might have enough depth to overcome all of that. There’s some individual star power in the girls’ competition, specifically Madison Osborn of Alburnett in the sprints and Emily Staal of Central City in the distances. North Linn appears to be the girls’ team with the most depth, though, and thus ranks a slight favorite with Alburnett and Maquoketa Valley the chief challengers.
Northeast Iowa Conference: 5 p.m., at Cresco
Upper Iowa Conference, 4 p.m., at Guttenberg
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