One race separated Jason Thomas from a lifetime of what-ifs.
The West Des Moines Dowling Catholic senior had a history of floundering as a favorite at the State Boys’ Track Meet.
He finally outran those disappointments Saturday, winning the Class 4-A 1,600 meters in an Iowa all-time best 4:10.14.
“I just said a quick little prayer,” Thomas recalled, ”’God, I haven’t won one of these yet. If you’d help me out, that’d be awesome.’
Thomas beat the previous meet record — 4:13.65, set in 1979 by Waterloo East’s Todd Peverill — by more than 3 seconds.
He also edged Linn-Mar of Marion’s Josh Evans, who placed second after running an Iowa all-time best 4:10.86 at last month’s Drake Relays.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Evans said of Thomas. “He ran a great race.”
It was Evans’ fourth top-three finish this weekend, propelling Linn-Mar to the 4-A team title.
The Lions finished with 72 points. Iowa City West was next with 57.
“I know West was kind of favored coming into this weekend,” Evans said. “And maybe they didn’t do as well in some events as they hoped.
“We made up for that slack and pulled it off.”
Pella was the Class 3-A champion. Monticello won 2-A. Manson-Northwest Webster triumphed in 1-A.
“Our coach straight up told us, ‘If we don’t come down here and dominate, you’re all walking home,'” Monticello junior Ben Ahlrichs said while helping the Panthers score a 2-A record 96 points.
Waukee showed its versatility en route to winning two 4-A relays.
The Warriors’ shuttle hurdle team completed a sweep of state and Drake titles, winning Saturday in a meet-record 56.47 seconds.
“We’ve been talking about breaking our school record,” anchor runner Jared Brdicko said after celebrating. “These guys did an amazing job. I’ve just got to pull through for them.”
Waukee wrapped up with a win in the 4×400. Noah Larrison ran the last lap, holding off Cedar Falls anchor Zach Shippy and Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Demetrius Harper.
The Warriors crossed the finish line in 3:19.04.
“I was just going as hard as I could,” Larrison said. “I got about 50 meters in, kind of looked to my side.
“I thought I saw someone, so I just kicked as hard as I could. I dug as deep as I could, just to finish that race.”
Thomas, a two-time Drake winner, was a projected pacesetter in the 800. Instead, he placed 14th.
The 1,600 was his fourth race of the meet, and the last of his high school career.
“I think it was good that I did that bad this morning,” Thomas explained, “because when I was between races I was like, ‘Hey, I can’t do any worse. So just go out and have fun, see what happens.”’
What ensued was a furious sprint down the home stretch.
“My plan was just to go with Josh Evans and hang on as long as I could,” Thomas said. “I was like, ‘Do I want to go now, or do I want to wait?’ I made a split-second decision to go now, and it paid off.”
No more memories to haunt him.
“It feels great to know I’m not going to have to live the rest of my life knowing I was a favorite in two events and didn’t win them,” Thomas said referring to another setback at last year’s state meet. “It feels awesome.”