Athletes at the state track meet make things look so easy at times it’s good to remember that what they do takes a lot of preparation, dedication, the right mindset and sometimes good fortune.
City sophomore Sarah Plock had plenty of everything but the luck Friday. Plock won the Drake Relays 400-meter hurdles in somewhat of an upset over defending Class 4A champ Anne Leners of Pleasant Valley, and the two were favored to duke it out again in Friday’s state final. But Plock hit a hurdle and tumbled forward about 150 meters from the finish, and Leners went on to win in 1:02.19.
But the story of the race came when Plock picked herself up and continued. Despite falling on her face — there’s no delicate way to put it — she finished third in 1:05.34 and sported a big strawberry on her right knee afterward.
“I don’t really know what happened; I don’t know,” Plock said. “I wasn’t thinking about the pain. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just wanted to get up and finish as hard as I could.”
Plock’s time at Drake would have won this race and she was clearly in position to do so again. But first or third, she provided a pretty good example to the rest of the state about what it means to compete.
* EXCITING MEDLEY FINISH: Josh Evans could be arrested for continually stealing the thunder of local teams. The Linn-Mar star did it again, breaking up a great medley relay race with City High, West High and Pleasant Valley with his surge in the final 100. The Lions won in 3:29.94, .3 seconds ahead of City. PV was third in the heat and fourth overall. West was right behind in 3:31.21. West Des Moines Dowling was third out of the second section.
Ryan Dorman’s 400 leg gave City’s anchor, Brook Price, a slight lead but all four were bunched with 400 left.
“It’s pretty much the same as an open 4,” Dorman said. “You’ve got to get out fast, and then you’ve got to keep going. In the last 100, I just gave it all I had. I really wanted to get Brook in the best position possible.”
West anchor Bailey Wetherell made a move with 300 left and took the lead briefly, not that anyone could lose the other three guys.
“With each race it’s something different, different people, different circumstances,” Wetherell said. “With 300 to go it’s, like, see if you can string them out. It ended up getting me. I guess I ran all right. I would have liked to be top three.”
“I knew it would turn into a race with 200 to go because when you have Bailey Wetherell and Josh Evans right behind you, they’re not going anywhere,” Price said. “I found myself getting boxed in over here (at 200 meters) so my strategy was to go around them and then the last 150 was fast, all out, and Josh got me.”
Price tried to catch Evans but just couldn’t quite get there. City was second in the event at the Drake Relays and thought it had a good shot in a loaded field. But after drafting behind Price the whole way, Evans burst from the pack.
“(Evans) is a good guy, strong and smart,” Wetherell said. “Maybe instead of going at 300 I should have waited and tried doing the same, just sitting on him. But I went for it, and it didn’t work out this time. I’ll come out again (today) and run a good two races.”
* THE ICEMAN: Speaking of gutting it out, West senior Tavian Smith was fourth in the long jump despite nursing a sore hamstring that had him visibly grimacing with every step. Smith leaped 22 feet, 1½ inches on his final jump and got a “good job” from coach Brian Martz in the nearby stands. He was one-quarter inch out of third place.
“It’s given me a little bit of trouble since (Thursday), but I’m trying to power through today,” Smith said.
Smith tweaked the hamstring in the first 50 meters of the 200 preliminary Thursday. He still qualified for today’s final, though. Pretty much every aspect of the long jump — the pounding of the approach, the jump off the board, and the landing — is affected.
“It hurt, but it was worth it to get the points for my team,” Smith said of his long jump. “It’s fine when I’m walking around, but once I start striding out, I can feel it pulling and pulling. It’s way better than it was (Thursday). I’m hoping (today) will be good. I’ve been icing so much. I took about three ice baths yesterday.”
* WRAPPING UP CAREER: City senior Aliyah Gustafson finished her throwing career by placing second in the shot put with a throw of 40 feet, 9¾ inches.
“It felt good. I thought I still had some more,” she said. “It was nice to jump up because I was in third (heading to the finals), so it was good to get that out.”
Des Moines Roosevelt’s top-seeded Alexa Hunt threw a personal-best 45-7¾ to win. Gustafson had mixed emotions.
“I’m happy, but I’m not happy,” she said. “Farther is always better. I guess I think I was focusing on too many things, form.”
Thursday Gustafson was fourth in the discus with a season-best throw, so this was her final appearance at the state track meet.
“It’s been good, though,” she said. “I don’t think I ever got negative (this year). Because with the weather like this it’s easy to get down on yourself. But you can’t think like that if you want to do well in the end.”
* AROUND THE TRACK: The West boys 4×200 finished seventh in 1:28.85, a season-best time, and did so out of the first of three sections. Matt Feeley was eighth in the 400 hurdles in 54.96. The West girls were eighth in the distance medley in 4:11.16, a five-second improvement this season.
City High’s girls 4×200 relay was eighth in 1:46.73, a season-best time. West was ninth.