Prep Track and Field

Iowa City Liberty girls' track and field program has made a quick climb

Iowa high school state-qualifying meets are Friday statewide

Iowa City Liberty's Ashlyn Keeney pushes to the finish of the Drake Relays 800-meter run against Cedar Falls' Mackenzie Michael in Des Moines on April 26. Keeney has helped Liberty make a quick climb in girls' track and field. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa City Liberty's Ashlyn Keeney pushes to the finish of the Drake Relays 800-meter run against Cedar Falls' Mackenzie Michael in Des Moines on April 26. Keeney has helped Liberty make a quick climb in girls' track and field. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Well, this didn’t take long. In just Year 2 of the school’s existence, the girls’ track and field team from Iowa City Liberty has established itself as a force.

The Lightning finished third at their Mississippi Valley Conference divisional meet last week, outscoring neighbor Iowa City West in the process. Led by distance duo Ashlyn Keeney and Cami Mac, along with hurdler Taylor Cannon, they figure to advance more than their share from Friday's Class 4A state-qualifying meet at Iowa City High.

“Our goal is to continue the growth we’ve had,” Liberty Coach Keaton Rickels said. “We’re a young team, but the mindset is to go into each event with a positive outlook and the times will come.

“I don’t say I think we can get third at conference or top-10 at state. That will happen naturally if everybody does what they can to help the team.”

State-qualifying meets were postponed from Thursday to Friday in all four classes, and most begin at 4 p.m.

The top two finishers in each event are automatic state qualifiers in 4A, 3A and 2A. Event champions automatically advance in 1A. The rest of the field will be determined by at-large time/distance, with 24 qualifiers total in each event, in each class.

The state meet is next Thursday through Saturday at Drake Stadium, Des Moines.

Liberty’s roster has doubled since last year, with more than 40 girls on the team.

“And we’ve added a couple of heavy hitters,” Rickels said.

Keeney certainly qualifies. A freshman, she was the 3,000-meter champion and the 800-meter runner-up at the Drake Relays. She is the fastest ninth-grader in state history in both events.

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Rickels said that Keeney will run in the 3,000, 1,500 and 800 Thursday, plus one relay that he did not specify.

The majority of the Metro/Iowa City 4A teams will be at City High. Linn-Mar is the lone exception; the Lions are at Dubuque.

Marion is the two-time defending 3A boys’ state champion, and the Indians are coming off a Wamac Conference championship performance last week. They’ll compete at Manchester on Thursday.

“Early in the season, we messed around with stuff we could do. We didn’t load things up. Maybe we were laying in the weeds a little,” Indians Coach Chad Zrudsky said.

“At conference, we stretched guys as much as we could. It was an opportunity for us, and we gave it a shot.”

Marion returned only eight of their 69 state-meet points from last year.

“We have a lot of new faces, and I’m excited about them,” Zrudsky said. “The sprint relays, we’re going to rely on that again this year.”

The Indians are ranked No. 3 in the 3A 800-meter relay.

“The goal is to be as competitive as possible,” Zrudsky said. “We graduated a lot, but we definitely think we can be in the top-eight conversation (at state), and if things go perfectly, who knows?”

Mid-Prairie is the defending 2A girls’ champion and will compete at Eddyville. Marie Hostetler was the Drake 1,500-meter champion.

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Class 4A

Top 2 in each event automatically qualify from each meet, plus 12 at-large statewide

At Dubuque — Cedar Falls, Clinton, Dubuque Hempstead, Dubuque Senior, Linn-Mar, Waterloo East, Waterloo West, Western Dubuque.

At Iowa City High — Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Cedar Rapids Prairie, Cedar Rapids Washington, Iowa City High, Iowa City Liberty, Iowa City West, Ottumwa.

Class 3A

Top 2 in each event automatically qualify from each meet, plus 8 at-large statewide

At Charles City — Algona, Charles City, Clear Lake, Decorah, Hampton-Dumont/CAL, Iowa Falls-Alden, Waverly-Shell Rock, Webster City.

At Manchester — Anamosa, DeWitt Central, Dubuque Wahlert, Independence, Maquoketa, Marion, Mount Vernon, West Delaware.

At Mount Pleasant — Centerville, Davenport Assumption, Fairfield, Fort Madison, Keokuk, Mount Pleasant, Washington, West Burlington-Notre Dame.

At Van Horne — Benton Community, Cedar Rapids Xavier, Center Point-Urbana, Clear Creek Amana, Grinnell, Solon, South Tama, Vinton-Shellsburg.

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Class 2A

Top 2 in each event automatically qualify from each meet, plus 8 at-large statewide

At Eddyville — Albia, Central Lee, Chariton, Danville, Davis County, Eddyville EBF, Mediapolis, Mid-Prairie, Monroe PCM, Pella Christian, Van Buren, Williamsburg.

At Monticello — Bellevue, Cascade, Dyersville Beckman, Jesup, Monticello, North Fayette Valley, North Linn, Oelwein, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Waterloo Columbus, Union Community, Waukon.

At Tipton — Camanche, Columbus Community, Durant, Iowa City Regina, Louisa-Muscatine, North Cedar, Northeast, Tipton, Wapello, West Branch, West Liberty, Wilton.

Class 1A

Each event champion automatically qualifies from each event, plus 14 at-large statewide

At Central City — Alburnett, Bellevue Marquette, Calamus-Wheatland, Central City, Clinton Prince of Peace, East Buchanan, Easton Valley, Highland, Iowa Mennonite, Lisbon, Lone Tree, Maquoketa Valley, Midland, Springville,

At Edgewood — Clayton Ridge, Don Bosco, Dunkerton, Edgewood-Colesburg, Elkader Central, Lansing Kee, MFL MarMac, Postville, South Winneshiek, Starmont, Tripoli, Turkey Valley, Wapsie Valley, West Central.

At Grundy Center — Ankeny Christian, Baxter, Belle Plaine, Collins-Maxwell, Colo-Nesco, Conrad BCLUW, Garwin GMG, Gladbrook-Reinbeck, Grand View Christian, Grundy Center, Hudson, Iowa Valley, Meskwaki Settlement, North Tama, Valley Lutheran.

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At Sigourney — BGM, Cardinal, English Valleys, HLV, Keota, Lynnville-Sully, Montezuma, New London, North Mahaska, Pekin, Sigourney, Tri-County, WACO, Winfield-Mount Union.

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

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