Missouri River Conference NEW

(KMAland) -- It’s another double shot of track today, as I dive into the girls Missouri River Conference.

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MISSOURI RIVER CONFERENCE GIRLS TRACK & FIELD PREVIEW

What are we going to do without Darby Thomas? The Abraham Lincoln stalwart was a superstar throughout the area and throughout the state for four years. This would have been the second season without her in the league, but COVID had other ideas.

Even with Darby Thomas in the AL lineup, Sioux City East won the MRC with 171 points. The Lynx were second with 144 while Sergeant Bluff-Luton was a distant third. Let’s peek at what the 2021 season could look like…

Note: The returning medalists, qualifiers and the MRC meet from 2019 will not include LeMars. I will touch on them later.

RETURNING STATE MEDALISTS

There are five athletes returning with at least one state medal and have seven combined. They are…

-Mia Conley, Junior, Bishop Heelan (1): Conley ran well for the second-place 4x400 meter relay team in 2019.

-Holly Duax, Junior, Sioux City West (2): Duax burst on to the scene and gave Thomas a push in the 100 and 200 throughout the year. She ended up with third-place finishes in both.

-Maddie Hinkel, Junior, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (1): Hinkel ran for a seventh-place 4x400 meter relay team in 2019.

-Emma Salker, Junior, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (1): Salker was also on the 4x400 meter relay team that finished seventh.

-Lineya Wells, Senior, Sioux City East (2): Wells placed 8th in the 200 meter dash and ran for the 6th place sprint medley relay.

RETURNING STATE INDIVIDUAL QUALIFIERS

This is from the 2019 meet only…

-Mia Conley, Junior, Bishop Heelan: Conley was also an individual qualifier in 2019 in the 400.

-Kaia Downs, Junior, Sioux City East: Downs was fantastic during her freshman season, qualifying for state in the 800 and 1500.

-Holly Duax, Junior, Sioux City West: See above.

-Maddie Hinkel, Junior, Sergeant Bluff-Luton: Hinkel qualified in the 800 meter run during her freshman season.

-Taylor Jochum, Junior, Bishop Heelan: Jochum was an individual qualifier as a freshman in the high jump.

-Caitlyn Miller, Senior, Sioux City North: Miller was a state qualifier as a sophomore in the discus throw.

-Addy Mosier, Junior, Sergeant Bluff-Luton: Mosier was a qualifier in the long jump in 2019.

-Alex Radcliffe, Junior, Sioux City East: Yet another that had a strong freshman season, Radcliffe qualified in the 800.

-Tessa Smith, Senior, Sergeant Bluff-Luton: Another qualifier from SBL that could be back, Smith was at the state meet in the discus.

-Kyley Vondrak, Junior, Sioux City East: Vondrak was a state qualifier as a freshman in the high jump.

-Lineya Wells, Senior, Sioux City East: Wells was a qualifier in both the 200 and the 400 as a sophomore.

INDIVIDUAL EVENT-BY-EVENT BREAKDOWN

100: Thomas won the race, but Wells was the runner-up. And yeah, they got a lot of studs in the back half of the race returning, including Salker, TJ junior Alexis Smith, Sioux City North senior Ashleigh Amelung, SBL senior Mia Gamet and another TJ junior Shaeley Bose, who ran from fourth through eighth, respectively. It’s worth noting Duax, her teammate and classmate Lily Junke and AL junior Hanna Schimmer didn’t run the race and all had top seven times during the season.

200: Wells finished second to Thomas here, too. Juhnke ended up fourth, and SBL’s Isabelle Lenz (a junior) and TJ’s Smith also finished in the top seven. Duax, though, did have the top time during the course of the season. Schimmer’s best time stood up as seventh throughout the season.

400: Duax did run here, and she won the race in a tight battle with runner-up, Wells. Schimmer took fourth, and Heelan’s Conley ended up in fifth. AL senior Jillian Shanks also had a top 10 time during the course of the season.

800: Madison Jochum was the dominant winner here, but it was a great race for second. Downs and Radcliffe finished second and third for the Black Raiders, and SBL’s Hinkel came in fourth. AL junior Emma O’Neal (7th) and Sioux City West senior Simiah Proctor (8th) were also among the top eight. Sioux City East senior Lydia Heald proved the depth of that Black Raider lineup, too, and had the fifth-fastest time during the season. Sioux City North’s Nicole Zuehl had the 8th-fastest time in 2019.

1500: Downs will be the defending champion, and she will be joined by three others that could return and finished in the top six. North senior Lillian Garay was the runner-up while TJ senior Hannah Belt took fifth and Heelan senior Emma Hutchinson ran sixth. AL junior Paige Bracker is another worth watching, as she had the seventh-fastest time of the season.

3000: East junior Sydney Helt won the championship in dominant fashion, finishing ahead of TJ’s Belt and East senior Karlie Stoos, who took second and third, respectively. AL senior Belinda James was the fifth-place finisher in the race. Garay (4th) and Zuehl (5th) didn’t run on this day, but they did post top five times throughout the season.

100 hurdles: Remember when Darby turned herself into an elite hurdler? That was sweet. She won this race in a meet record time of 15.31. The highest potential returning finisher in the race is SBL senior Nya Lul, who took third on this particular day when she was at Sioux City East. SBL’s Mosier finished in seventh here, too. East juniors Vondrak and Brylee Hempey should also be kept in mind, considering they had the sixth- and seventh-fastest times during the season.

400 hurdles: We could have a defending champ here, too, with North senior Yuriczi Montes winning the title in her sophomore season. East’s Hempey was third, SBL’s Lul took fifth and AL junior Amirah Rosas came in eighth. SBL junior Jenna Meyer could be another worth watching as she posted the 8th-fastest time during her freshman season.

Shot put: The top four shot putters are gone from this conference. AL junior Jacee Tindall is the top-returning finisher from the meet. She was a fifth-place thrower while North senior Sedrena Phillips took sixth and TJ’s Lilly Thompson was a seventh-place finisher as a sophomore.

Discus throw: The top two are gone, but SBL’s Smith and North’s Miller went 3 and 4 at the MRC meet in 2019. Two others in the top eight – SBL junior Jade Mammen and TJ junior Alexandrea Voss – could also return. TJ’s Thompson had the ninth-longest toss of the season.

Long jump: It’s been a while since someone not named Darby Thomas was expected to win this one. Wells could be the heavy favorite after taking runner-up two years ago. Mosier, North junior Adriel Simien and Schimmer also had top six finishes at the meet. SBL junior Ella Brester is yet another in that class that could be worth watching. She had the seventh-longest jump of the season.

High jump: The top two finishers from the meet are gone. That leaves the top finisher from 2019 as AL senior Kayla Schleifman. Heelan’s Taylor Jochum was fourth at the meet while Mosier and Vondrak ended up fifth and sixth, respectively. Heelan senior Avery Nelson was also tied for the sixth-longest jump of the season.

RELAYS EVENT-BY-EVENT BREAKDOWN

4x100: Sioux City West won the race, and they could bring back two of their legs in Juhnke (2nd) and Duax (anchor). Second-place East is in the same boat with potentially bringing back the same two legs in Kilie Junck and Megan Callahan. AL’s third-place team is completely graduated.

4x200: Sergeant Bluff-Luton threw three of their freshmen out there, and they came away with a gold. Hinkel, Lenz and Salker ran the final three legs for the champs. The runner-up East also ran Junck and Callahan second and fourth, respectively, while AL’s third-place group could return their anchor Shalynn Barba. Heelan was a tight fourth, by the way, and could bring back juniors Allie Stanek and Izzy Linden.

4x400: Heelan was the winner by about 2.5 seconds here, and they had some real studs running in this race. Only one of them, though, could be back in Conley, who ran the third leg. SBL ran second and could bring back Salker (lead) and Hinkel (3rd). It was a distant third, but it’s worth mentioning the AL foursome could return intact with Schimmer, Schleifman, Bracker and Shanks all potential returnees.

4x800: East won the race and could have three of those four runners back in the mix. Senior Katie Lammers, Radcliffe and Downs were the first, second and anchor legs for the champs that set a meet record. AL’s Bracker and O’Neal were the first two legs for the runner-up Lynx. North, meanwhile, took third and could have their first two legs in Zuehl and Garay back in the mix.

Shuttle hurdle: Another East champion that could nearly return intact. Hempey and Vondrak ran second and fourth in this race. The news is not as good as AL, as all four of their hurdlers were juniors in 2019. West ran third and could return just one of their legs in senior Shewit Gafo, who ran third. Look out for SBL here, too. Lul ran the lead leg for East while Mosier, Alexis Fehl and Cara Patrick were in the top three legs for the fourth-place finishers.

Sprint medley: Only one of SBL’s four runners on the defending champ could be back. Salker was the 200 leg in the race. AL’s Shanks was also the 200 leg and could also be their only returnee. Finally, there’s Sioux City East, which placed third and could bring back their second (Junck) and third (Callahan) legs. North wasn’t too far behind third and might have Simien, Amelung and anchor Mia Norton back in the fold.

Distance medley: Heelan was the champion, but they may only return one of their runners from that team in Joslyn Verzal, who is a junior and ran the second 200. North took the runner-up spot and might bring back three of those runners – Simien, Norton and Zuehl. AL could also bring back the final three legs in Schleifman, Shanks and Bracker.

CROSS COUNTRY NAMES TO WATCH

A few other names worth mentioning from the cross country season…

-Maddie Demke, Freshman, Bishop Heelan: Heelan had a strong freshman class of runners in cross country, and Demke ran seventh at the conference meet.

-Elizabeth Jordan, Sophomore, Sioux City North: North finished second at the MRC meet behind Downs and could factor into several distance races.

-Sophia Karras, Sophomore, Sergeant Bluff-Luton: Here’s another one worth watching for the Warriors. Karras ended up with a fourth-place finish at the MRC.

-Jada Newberg, Sophomore, Bishop Heelan: Newberg was the eighth-place finisher at the MRC meet this past fall.

-Brooklyn Stanley, Freshman, Bishop Heelan: Look out for Stanley in the distance races this spring. She was a fifth-place finisher at the MRC meet in the fall.

IN CONCLUSION

Just based on what I’ve written above, this should be a really fun battle between Sioux City East, Heelan and Sergeant Bluff-Luton. All three schools have plenty of returning and experienced talent, and they will all be very strong in races from the 400 on up to the 3000.

Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to dmartin@kmamail.com.

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