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Conference track and field preview: A look at MVC, Wamac and more
Championships on the line Thursday in MVC, Wamac, River Valley and Tri-Rivers
The Gazette’s “core four” conferences — the Mississippi Valley, Wamac, River Valley and Tri-Rivers — will conduct their track and field championships Thursday throughout the area.
The MVC splits into four meets (Mississippi and Valley; boys and girls) at four different sites. The other three leagues will conduct “super” meets, with boys’ and girls’ competitions at the same site.
Here is a form chart for each of Thursday’s area meets:
MVC Mississippi Division
TIME & PLACE: 4:30 p.m., at Epworth (girls) and Kingston Stadium (boys)
SCOUTING THE GIRLS: Seven of the eight teams in this division range from quite competitive to very good. The three teams in the “very-good” echelon consist of Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City High and Iowa City Liberty. Prairie is led by Drake Relays 400-meter champion Gabby Cortez, while Liberty counters with distance ace Ashlyn Keeney. A state giant two decades ago, City High is back on its way up behind good depth and a promising freshman in Ani Wedemeyer, a threat from 100 meters to 800. Audrey Biermann, who anchored Western Dubuque to the Drake sprint medley relay title, has the Bobcats in that second level, along with Linn-Mar, Cedar Falls and Dubuque Wahlert.
SCOUTING THE BOYS: No doubt about it, this is the stronger and deeper of the two divisions on the boys’ side. This marks the beginning of what could be a three-week string of championships for Iowa City High, which has major Class 4A title aspirations in Des Moines. The Little Hawks are full of stars, led by Jovan Harris, Ammon Smith and Ford Washburn. Harris and Smith were on the Drake Relays championship distance medley relay, and Washburn eclipsed 9 minutes in a runner-up 3,200-meter finish. Linn-Mar has an excellent across-the-board team of its own and is projected to edge Cedar Falls for second place.
MVC Valley Division
TIME & PLACE: 4:30 p.m., at Waterloo (girls) and Cedar Rapids Xavier (boys)
SCOUTING THE GIRLS: Cedar Rapids Kennedy has the long sprinters and the hurdlers. Dubuque Hempstead has the distance crew. Whichever of those teams can pick up a high number of points outside of its niche probably will walk away with the championship. Twins Addison and Sidney Swartzendruber lead Kennedy’s bid, along with Grace Braden. Hempstead counters with a distance group that won the 3,200-meter relay at the Drake Relays. Keep an eye on Iowa City West; the Trojans are capable of sneaking past the front-runners with a big day.
SCOUTING THE BOYS: In a field of only eight teams, like the MVC divisions have, depth is nearly as important as high-end talent. Iowa City West has both, and thus is a solid favorite to claim the title. Led by Christian Janis in the sprints, Alex McKane in the distance events and relay power throughout, the Trojans have all of the bases covered. Cedar Rapids Kennedy rates as the Trojans’ chief challenger, and Dubuque Hempstead and Dubuque Senior both are strong in the middle distances.
TIME & PLACE: 4:30 p.m., at Dyersville
SCOUTING THE GIRLS: Expect a competitive, multi-team race ... for second place. Solon is going to win the championship, possibly by 100 points or more. The Spartans enter as the top seed in all seven relays (including the 4x400, which they won at the Drake Relays last week) and will score double points in the majority of the individual races on the track. Emma Bock, Kaia Holtkamp, Gracie Federspiel, the Stahle girls ... the list of stars is lengthy. Mount Vernon, Clear Creek Amana, Center Point-Urbana and Williamsburg will battle for second. South Tama’s JoJo Tyynismaa has the top time in the 200 and both hurdles races.
SCOUTING THE BOYS: The boys’ race should be more crowded at the top than the girls, but relay strength tilts the scales in favor of defending champion Clear Creek Amana, with Benton Community, Solon and Marion the most likely challengers. The Clippers are favored in three relays and have a pair of stalwarts in Gavin Zillyette and Harrison Rosenberg. Other individuals to watch include Marion’s Shane Erb and Center Point-Urbana’s Eli Larson in the distance events, and CPU’s Aaron Kramer, Benton Community’s Sam Wallace and Marion’s Alex Mota lead the sprinting hopfuls.
River Valley Conference
TIME & PLACE: 4:30 p.m., at Monticello
SCOUTING THE GIRLS: The return of Danielle Hostetler (from a stress reaction in her left shin) means that Mid-Prairie has an unmatched 1-2 punch, not only in the RVC, but in Class 2A. With Hostetler and Mitzi Evans, it’s possible that the Golden Hawks will hold a monopoly from 200 meters all the way to 3,000. Place that duo in a relay or two, and Mid-Prairie ought to be on its way to the league title. Behind hurdler Ellie Rickertsen, Northeast is a serious challenger. Tipton has a deep, balanced squad, particularly in the middle distances, and projects as the third-place team.
SCOUTING THE BOYS: This race could be one of the tightest in the area Thursday, with Mid-Prairie and Tipton locked in an apparent dead heat. The Golden Hawks and the Tigers will have numerous head-to-head battles, particularly in the middle- and long-distance races, that will determine the champion. Thaddeus Shetler (distance) and Cain Brown (high jump/hurdles) are Mid-Prairie’s stars, and Tipton counters with its middle-distance relays. Led by Alex Pitts, strong in the hurdles and long jump, Bellevue is most likely to challenge the top two.
TIME & PLACE: 4 p.m., at Lisbon
SCOUTING THE GIRLS: Dead-even with Alburnett in the individual events, Lisbon has the relay edge, and that might be the difference in the title chase. You may know Peyton Robinson better in volleyball and softball, but the junior also spearheads Lisbon’s sprint relays. Alburnett has elite jumpers in Hailey Carolan and Lacey Neighbor. North Linn and Maquoketa Valley are projected to round out the top four in the team race. The star of the distance events will be Calamus-Wheatland freshman Noelle Steines, the reigning cross country state champion.
SCOUTING THE BOYS: Lisbon and Maquoketa Valley are the giants here; the two teams are favored to win 17 of the 19 events. Lisbon is led by Drake Relays 400-meter hurdles champion Kole Becker, an Iowa State signee who is likely to win four events Thursday. The Lions have other weapons as well, plus a multitude of depth, and could make a push at the 200-point mark. Maquoketa Valley’s Brock Trenkamp should sweep the throws, and the Wildcats are the team to beat in four relays. Easton Valley’s Aidan Gruver is the top sprinter in the league.