Central shines at state track meet

Central’s shuttle relay team, anchored by Abby Gifford was a decisive event for the Warriors in their run for a top three state finish. The other relay members were Kiana Stender, Kinsey Juergens and Anna Tuecke. Photo by Bev Hamann

Central’s Torre Curran hands off to Peyton Alexie in the 4x800 relay. The other two members of the relay were Ted Hilgerson and Jacob Jansen. The relay placed 23rd overall. Photo by Bev Hamann


By Pat McTaggart

Freelance Writer


The Central boys’ and girls’ track teams were well represented at the 2014 Iowa High School State Track Meet held May 22-24 in Des Moines. The girls finished third in Class 1A, their highest finish in 35 years.

On the boys’ side, Central finished with 10 team points, placing 23rd in the standings. The 4x800 team of Torre Curran, Peyton Alexie, Ted Hilgerson, Jacob Jansen placed 23rd with a time of 8:50.42. “These young men represented Central well versus a tough field of competitors,” Coach Tom Wilwert said.

Nathan Fitzgerald placed fourth in the shot put, and fourth in the discus. “We always hope to have our best performances at the state meet,” Coach Wilwert commented.  “It is a great atmosphere, and all of our training and preparations throughout the season build to this meet. Nathan did that at state. In discus, his first throw of 150 feet tied for his personal best, and he improved on it later with a throw of 152’ 5”.  Nathan had broken the Central school record for the shot put earlier this year with a throw of 51’ 7”. He exceeded his record on three of his throws during the competition, saving his best throw for last, 54’ 7.5”.

The girls’ team participated in 11 events. Their 42 points tied the team for Central’s overall points at state, and it was the highest team finish since 1979.

“Going into the state meet we were seeded in the top eight in eight of our 11 events,” Coach Martha Bauder said.  “Right from the start we thought there would be a realistic chance for us to do something special. If we actually finished according to our seeds, we would compile the most points, and most likely the highest team finish, since 1979—a time nearly 20 years before any of these team members were even born. But as always, your beginning seeds rarely turn out exactly as predicted.”

“There are so many factors that go in to being successful at state—your team members all being 100 percent healthy, the maturity and confidence to battle the immense butterflies associated with every event, staying properly prepared with nutrition, sleep and physical warming up/cooling down for three straight days and making smart use of the tree time each day while the other classes are competing. Then there’s the competition angle, which can change slightly in relays, so you can’t prepare for it 100 percent. If any of those factors is less than perfect, your chances for the ultimate success are dramatically reduced. In the end, our girls did everything they had to do, right from the first event to the last event of the meet.”

The girls’ first events were the shuttle relay and the shot put. Shana Hilgerson finished 21st in the shot put with a throw of 32’4”.

“It was not one of her best and not what she would have hoped for,” Coach Bauder said. “But the competition was excellent, and she gained valuable experience and motivation for next year where she could realistically qualify for both the shot put and the discus.”

In the preliminary shuttle relay, the team of Kiana Stender, Kinsey Juergens, Anna Tuecke and Abby Gifford ran their best time of the year but finished with the fifth seed, which would put them in the slow heat of finals. Tuecke ran her best split of the year.

Then the 4x800 relay team of Stender, Emily Asche, Alexia Funk and Haley Schroeder had their chance to see what they could do with their second place seed prediction. “We knew it would be a tough task because often the other teams change up their runners, and you don’t always know exactly who you are going up against,” Coach Bauder said. “The girls ran the race of their lives from start to finish and set a huge school record (9:47.29) with a superb second-place finish.

Gifford then participated in the long jump, where she scratched on two excellent jumps, but managed on solid jump that would qualify her for the finals. In the finals she had a jump of 16’ 3”, which netted her fourth place and added more points to the team score.

In the last event of day 1, Haley Schroeder participated in the 400-meter dash, where she was seeded first. “With that in mind, she battled the nerves and went with everything she had to try and win it,” Coach Bauder said.  “It came down to the final 50 meters, where she was battling a girl that was at least six inches taller, and came up just a fraction of a second short with a time of a personal record best of 58.60, for what was still an amazing second place finish. It was the fastest time for Central since 1979.”

“With day 1 at a close, the girls were in first place as a team,” Coach Bauder added. “This had never been done here at Central, so once again the girls knew that the next day would bring all the same butterflies and anxiety in order to keep their hopes alive for a top three team finish by the end of day 3.”

On May 23, the day started with Stender in the 400-meter hurdles, where she came in seeded sixth in a very tough field. She ran a strong race and finished sixth with a time of 1:07.9, her second best time of the season.

In the 4x200 relay, the team of Gifford, Asche, Juergens and Tuecke came in seeded 20th. “They knew they would have to run a crazy good time in order to place in the top eight,” Coach Bauder said. “They did just that!  They each had their best splits of the season, ran our best time of the year (1:50.90) and the second best time for Central, for a 16th place finish. But they were only one-half second out of eighth place!”

The next event saw Gifford run in the 100-meter hurdles. “For some reason, it has always been very difficult to run a season best time at state in the 100-meter dash and 100-meter hurdles, but Abby came out hard and finished in 18th place with a season best time of 16.98,” Coach Bauder said. “That is in the top three of our past hurdlers at the state meet.

The last event of the day was the 4x400-meter relay preliminaries (Stender, Asche, Juergens, Schroeder). “The girls came in seeded third but once again you know everyone has to run their best,” Coach Bauder commented.  “You never know how it’s going to play out with other team members and with your own team members. There is no room for error from anyone. We wanted to definitely win our heat and qualify for the finals and our girls came out ready to give it their all. They ran an amazing race with all of them having season best or near season best splits. They set a new school record and had a time fast enough to qualify them for finals with the third fastest time of the day.”

“At the end of the day, our girls were once again in first place as a team,” Coach Bauder added. “That is something that has never been done at Central.”

After the day’s events, Coach Bauder had a team meeting.  “I hesitated to tell the girls how close day 3 was going to be,” she said.  “First place was undoubtedly going to be North Linn, but the next three teams could realistically end up with 40 points. We were setting ourselves up to accomplish exactly what we had thought possible before the state meet started. That we could actually be in the hunt for a team trophy, a top two finish, has never been done since I started coaching in 1982 and had never been done since 1979. With all these possibilities, the girls were very excited but extremely nervous. For one more day they knew they had to be ready on all fronts—every single race—and hope that the other teams didn’t pull out some miracles for themselves.”

The final day of the meet began with Haley Schroeder running in the 800 meters. She was seeded third behind two runners from the other teams that were in the trophy hunt along with Central. “Haley went out with her normal assertiveness and gave it everything she possible could,” Coach Bauder said. “She finished with her second-best time of the year (2:21.31), but more importantly, she finished third, which kept us right up there in our hunt for the trophy. The other two runners did what was expected, so once again we needed every event of ours to continue to be our best.”

The next event was the shuttle hurdle relay finals.  “I thought this event could give us a boost to the team race because our fifth-place seed was only one-half second out of second place,” Coach Bauder commented.  “But being in the slow heat usually makes a huge difference as far as running your best. Our girls came out blazing and won their heat with a time (1:08.34) that would eventually give us third place overall. That was a huge boost for our team score, and it put us ahead of three of the teams we were battling with. But by the time our next event, the 1500 meters, came, those other teams pulled ahead of us with their other event finishes, but we were still close enough to reach our goal.”

“Ashley ran a near perfect race for her first time at state,” Coach Bauder continued.  “The 1500 meter is a tactical race, especially at the state level where everyone is so good. She came out and ran up in the top half of the big group, and even though she got edged out in the last 100 meters by several runners, she had her best time ever (5:18.77) and our season best time. That is very difficult to do as a freshman at state, especially in the 1500 meters.”

It all came down to the 4x400-meter relay finals. Central came into the event seven points out of second place and four points out of third. 

“We would need a top four finish to get that coveted third-place team trophy,” Coach Bauder said. “Once again, we knew it was possible, but as always, anything can happen, and one second could make a difference in the outcome.  The girls (Stender, Asche, Juergens, Schroeder) were determined, and with all four runners having either their best or second best split of the year (4:08.29) we ended up third and jumped up into third place in the final team standings.”

“The emotional and physical roller coaster of the past three days was over,” she added.  “We were celebrating our best finish since 1979.”

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