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Numbers, speed line up in Williamsburg’s favor
Boys’ track and field: Led by high-jumper Derek Weisskopf and a stable full of speedy sprinters, the Raiders rate as an early favorite in Class 2A
WILLIAMSBURG — In multiple ways, numbers are on the side of the Williamsburg High School boys’ track and field team.
First, you’ve got the sheer numbers of available sprinters. The more common phrase is “sprinting depth.”
“This is the deepest sprint group we’ve had,” Coach Matt Matthes said. “We have seven or eight guys that we can plug in.”
Last year, they were so deep that Derek Weisskopf, quite possibly the best all-around high school male athlete in Eastern Iowa, couldn’t land a spot on the Raiders’ speedy sprint relays.
Williamsburg won the Class 2A 400- and 800-meter relays on its way to a third-place team finish.
All of those dudes ... Owen Douglas, Clayten Steckly, Carson Huedepohl, Kellen Cockrell, Rayce Heitman ... are back this spring.
And that brings us to another set of numbers leaning in the Raiders’ direction.
They’re called BEDS numbers, in which Iowa high school sports teams are classified.
Williamsburg’s BEDS number for 2022-23 (last year’s 9-11 enrollment) is 307, which preliminarily makes the Raiders the largest school in Class 2A boys’ track.
With a BEDS number of 309, Spirit Lake — the defending 2A state champion — now appears to be the smallest school in 3A.
And finally ...
Williamsburg brings back all 37 points from last year’s state meet, the most of anybody in 2A. Des Moines Christian is next, with 32.
“We’re been blessed that we have some really fast kids,” said Matthes, now in his 10th season as head coach.
So, who’s the fastest?
“Not to toot my horn, but it’s me,” Douglas said. “Me and Clayten, it’s really competitive between us.”
Douglas was fifth in the 2A 100 last year, Steckly sixth.
“I feel quicker than last year,” said Douglas, a senior. “I’ve got my foot on the pedal, and I’m chugging along.”
Heitman, Huedepohl, Steckly and Douglas ran to gold last year in the 800 relay, in 1:30.29.
In the 400 relay, it was Huedepohl, Cockrell, Steckly and Douglas. They had the fourth-best preliminary time (43.86 seconds), then blazed to a 43.20 effort in the finals to win it.
“We were way faster in the finals,” Cockrell said. “We had a lot of confidence. A couple of those other teams beat us in the prelims, but we came out with the mindset that we were going to take them down.”
Weisskopf was the 2A high jump champion, clearing 6 feet, 7 inches. He cleared 6-9 earlier in the season, and wants to go higher this spring.
“Anything over 6-9 is my goal,” he said. “I’d really like to get 7 feet.”
What would that take?
“A good day. Perfect weather, good technique,” he said. “It might be more likely indoors.”
A junior and a University of Iowa football commit, Weisskopf will be more than merely a jumper this season, Matthes said. He can sprint, and he can throw both the shot and the discus.
“This is the first year that Derek hasn’t been playing travel (basketball) in the spring,” Matthes said. “He could do a lot of things.
“We’ll figure out the best way to use him, and to rest him.”
Matthes said that the hope is to have Steckly and Heitman — both out with injury — back by mid-April.
The track season is a short season, but a lot of good, and bad, can happen in eight or nine weeks.
For now, though, numbers are on the Raiders’ side. And Matthes is confident they’ll show up when it matters in May.
“They’re Williamsburg athletes,” he said. “When the lights are on, they’ll perform.”