There aren’t many certainties in the world of prep track and field, certainly not in an event as unpredictable as the hurdles.
Then again, there aren’t many athletes like Solon’s Connor Ham.
The nearly-automatic Ham capped his stellar prep career with two more state titles on Saturday and became just the fifth athlete in state history to win the 110 hurdles three times.
“Like most people of his caliber, Drake Stadium brings out the best in Connor and you got to see a little bit more of who he is and what he is about today,” Solon coach Mark Sovers said. “He struggled a little bit with some injury but he fought through that and still performed at a very high level.”
Ham edged Cole Phillips of Mount Pleasant for his third straight 110 hurdle title in a time of 14.3.
He added a second straight 200-meter crown, giving him five state titles for his career.
The senior anchored the Spartans’ 4×100 relay team to a third-place finish. The defending 3A champion Spartans finished sixth in the team standings with 32 points.
“We needed points, we hadn’t scored that much this meet so I kind of put it on my shoulders to do what I could,” Ham said. “I was just trying to help the team as much as I could.”
A Northern Iowa recruit, Ham had to fend off his future college teammate Phillips for both of his titles.
Ham overcame an early deficit to edge Phillips by .07 in the 110 hurdles.
“Cole is a great competitor, he was ahead of me in the middle I think but that is usually when I hit my stride, I find my rhythm,” Ham said. “I’m more a second-half runner.”
Ham closed the gap on Phillips and the pair were nearly even over the final two hurdles before Ham surged in front in the final 20 meters.
“I never really lost hope but I think he nicked one and that slowed him down a little,” Ham said. “I couldn’t find a hurdle not to hit so I guess we were on the same trip there but it worked out.”
Ham found himself in a similar situation in the 200, trailing Phillips and Algona junior Keagan Zwiefel.
In the final 100 meters, Ham surged to the front of the pack to win in a time of 22.35 while Phillips was second in 22.5
“I thought I was going to get third,” Ham said of the 200. “I don’t know if they slowed down or I sped up but I just started to gain on them and eventually just kept going and going and going and gained on them.”
Ham ended his prep career in impressive and gutty fashion.
He matched his own state meet record in the prelims of the 110 hurdles on Friday.
Ham battled a quadriceps injury for most of the day on Saturday but still added three medals, including two state titles.
He teamed with Brandan Childs, Matthew Roeder and Nate Christensen to place third in the 4×100 relay in 43.69.
“He definitely wasn’t 100 percent today but the great thing about it is he didn’t show that,” Sovers said. “His actions showed everyone he was the competitor that he’s always been and that his heart wasn’t injured. In any type of competitive event I’ll always put my money on him.”
The Solon girls got three top-six finishes from relay teams on Saturday and just missed out on a top-five finish, placing sixth in 3A with 42 points.
Davenport Assumption won its third straight Class 3A crown with 74 points.
“I’m so pleased with the effort,” Solon coach Brent Sands said. “This year there was just a lot of those teams that could keep scoring but I’m ecstatic with how we finished.”
Solon got fourth-place finishes from its 4×100 and sprint medley relay teams Saturday. The Spartans’ 4×400 team finished sixth.
“We had a tremendous weekend,” Sands said. “I don’t know if we could have done any better, I’m so happy for our kids.
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.com.