(KMAland) -- This is part one of two spring sports previews coming at you today. I’ve pretty well reached the last possible day to get these in before everyone is running.
Let’s go ahead and look at the girls Pride of Iowa Conference track and field landscape.
PREVIOUS SPRING SPORTS PREVIEWS
PRIDE OF IOWA CONFERENCE GIRLS TRACK & FIELD PREVIEW
The last we saw of the POI girls, Nodaway Valley was edging past Mount Ayr for a 131 to 114 conference championship. Central Decatur was not all that far behind with 110.5 points, and Wayne and Southwest Valley rounded out the top five. A lot has changed since then. Let’s take a look.
RETURNING STATE MEDALISTS
There are five returning athletes in the conference that have combined for 12 total medals in their careers. None of them, though, were of the individual variety.
-Lyndsey Dale, Senior, Central Decatur (1): Dale was a member of the third-place shuttle hurdle relay team in 2019.
-Maddax DeVault, Junior, Nodaway Valley (4): The leading medal-holder in KMAland for the junior class, DeVault got all her medals in relays. There was a runner-up in the sprint medley, a fourth in the 4x100 and shuttle hurdle and a seventh in the 4x200. She can run anything, basically.
-Vivian Tracy, Senior, Bedford (1): Tracy ran for the state runner-up distance medley relay in 2018.
-Jena & Natalie Yonker, Seniors, Nodaway Valley (3 each): Jena and Natalie have three medals each, and they’re not all the same. Jena has a runner-up in the sprint medley, a fourth in the 4x100 and a seventh in the 4x200. Meanwhile, Natalie has two fourth-place medals in the shuttle hurdle and a seventh in the 4x200.
RETURNING STATE QUALIFIERS
Other returning state individual qualifiers from the 2019 meet…
-Sophia Broers, Senior, Nodaway Valley: Broers qualified for the 3000 meter run during her sophomore season.
-Reese Brown, Junior, Wayne: Brown made quite the impact as a freshman in the sprints and jumps. She qualified for the 100, 200 and long jump.
-Emily Jones, Junior, Wayne: Jones was also an impact freshman, and she qualified for state in the discus throw.
That’s it. Only three. Many things have changed in this league. Let’s see if we can make sense of it with these next two…
INDIVIDUAL EVENT-BY-EVENT BREAKDOWN
This is based on the 2019 Pride of Iowa meet and recorded times, jumps and throws to QuikStats.
100: The top three finishers are back here. That includes defending champion and junior Adalyn Reynolds, who was followed at the POI meet by Jena Yonker and Reese Brown. Fifth-place Aunulee Bruce of Southwest Valley and eight-place finisher Jenna Young of Central Decatur could also be back from the POI’s top eight. One other in the top eight during the course of the year was Southeast Warren junior Eve Balk, who had the seventh-fastest time for the season.
200: DeVault’s main focus as a freshman was in the relays, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her start to hit more individual events….like she did at the POI meet in 2019. At least in this event anyway. DeVault won the title and finished ahead of Wayne’s Brown (2nd), Southeast Warren’s Balk (5th), Southwest Valley’s Bruce (7th) and Lenox junior Brooklynn Ecklin (8th). Another Southeast Warren junior Josie Hartman posted the seventh-fastest time during the season in 2019.
400: The highest-returning finisher from the POI meet two years ago is runner-up Adalyn Reynolds of Mount Ayr. Her teammate Payten Lambert placed third while Southwest Valley junior took fourth. Wayne’s Sarah Dilliner and Martensdale-St. Marys’ Maggie Girardi ran seventh and eighth in the race, respectively. Brown and Hartman also had the seventh and eighth-fastest times during the course of the season.
800: Now we begin our run of Emma Lucas-dominated events. She’s gone, and so is runner-up Reagan Weinheimer. However, third-place finisher McKinna Hogan of Lenox is back. So is fourth-place Jaide Harvey of Wayne, East Union junior Elizabeth Hardy (6th) and Martensdale-St. Marys’ Girardi (8th). Mount Ayr senior MaKayla Jones is another worth watching, as she had the seventh-fastest time during the season.
1500: Lucas rolled, but Nodaway Valley’s Broers was second and leads a total of five from that top eight two years ago. Wayne junior Maddy Wood, Southwest Valley senior Sydney Davies, East Union senior Gabrielle Valencia and Nodaway Valley senior Erin Ford ran fourth, fifth, sixth and eight, respectively. Hogan (Lenox) and Jones (Mount Ayr) also had top seven times during the season, although didn’t run here.
3000: Lucas and Broers went 1-2, and that means Broers is the odds-on favorite this season. Valencia placed third just ahead of fourth-place Kylee Forkner of Southeast Warren (a then-sophomore) and fifth-place Taylor Clymer of Mount Ayr (a then-freshman). Southwest Valley senior Aubrey Boswell and Ford (Nodaway Valley) placed seventh and eighth, respectively, and are other potential returnees. Wood (Wayne) could be a threat here after posting the fourth-fastest time during the season. Central Decatur senior Kaydee Swartz is another that was in the top eight (seventh) during the season.
100 hurdles: The POI garnered three state medalists in the 100 hurdles in 2019. All three of them are graduated or not out this season. That leaves Southeast Warren’s Balk as the top finisher (4th) and top returning time (also 4th). Lenox senior Cassidy Nelson could be a threat, too, after finishing sixth. East Union senior Grace Nixon is another that scored at the meet, finishing in eighth. Also, look for another Lenox senior TJ Stoaks to be in the mix. She had the seventh-fastest time during the season.
400 hurdles: The top-returning finisher and time comes from Stoaks (Lenox), who was fourth at the meet and fourth throughout the season. The only other potential returnee from the POI meet is Bedford junior Abby Dukes, who ended up in eighth. Southeast Warren’s Balk (6th) and Mount Ayr junior Maddie Stewart (8th) could also be in the mix this season after posting top 8 times in 2019.
Discus: Jones was the winner here, edging past Southwest Valley senior Marah Larsen, which could lead to a good battle this season, in theory. Mount Ayr senior Hope Whittington is the next highest finisher (7th) and the only other that scored at the 2019 meet. Makes sense. Throws are usually a spot for the juniors and seniors.
Shot put: While throws are usually a good spot for veterans, the shot put champion in 2019 was also a freshman, Kyli Aldrich of Southwest Valley. Jones (Wayne) finished third in the shot while Central Decatur senior Emily Cornell, Nodaway Valley junior Whitney Lamb and Mount Ayr senior Hope Whittington went 6-7-8 in the event.
High jump: The top three are all gone, but four of the top eight from the POI meet are potentially coming back. The highest returning finisher is Central Decatur senior Carleigh O’Dell, who tied for fourth. Nelson (Lenox), Mount Ayr senior Avery Dickerson and Harvey (Wayne) went 6-7-8 in the 2019 meet. Hartman (Southeast Warren) and Southwest Valley senior Aspen Lundquist are two others that had top 8 jumps during the season that could be back.
Long jump: The top two finishers are gone and graduated, but the rest of the medalists from the POI meet in 2019 are back. Brown (Wayne) and Natalie Yonker (Nodaway Valley) were in a tight battle for third, finishing in that order, while Lambert (Mount Ayr), Bedford senior Macie Sefrit, Central Decatur junior Gatlynn Miller and Balk (Southeast Warren) finished fifth through eighth, respectively.
To wrap that all up, Nodaway Valley has three top-returning individuals in these events. DeVault was the champ in the 200 while Broers was runner-up in both the 1500 and 3000 in 2019. Lenox, Mount Ayr and Wayne all have two each, and Central Decatur, Southeast Warren and Southwest Valley have one. That, of course, stipulates all of these athletes are out for track.
EVENT-BY-EVENT RELAY BREAKDOWN
Now, to the relays…
4x100: Both Nodaway Valley (1st) and Mount Ayr (3rd) can return two of their four legs from 2019. Jena Yonker led and DeVault anchored the Wolverines to the conference championship while Mount Ayr could bring back their second (Stewart) and anchor (Reynolds) legs. Second-place Martensdale-St. Marys has graduated all four.
4x200: MSTM rolled to the win in 2019, but they have only one potential returnee in their lead leg, Kylie Keller. Nodaway Valley won a close battle for second and could have their first two legs – the Yonkers – and their anchor (DeVault) back. Central Decatur could return all four: Miller, Jenna Young, Mya Applegate and Lauren Martin. Since it was close, let’s also include Mount Ayr’s fourth-place foursome, which could have just their anchor, Ryleigh Haveman, back in the fold.
4x400: Every anchor from the top three finishers are back. Mount Ayr won the race behind Lambert, who would be the only returnee among the group. Runner-up Wayne could have Harvey (2nd leg) and Brown (anchor) back, and third-place Lenox could return their lead (Hogan) and their anchor (Stoaks).
4x800: The defending champion Central Decatur could build another pretty good group, and it would likely be centered around their lead leg from 2019, Carson Bethards, and third leg, O’Dell. Runner-up Martensdale-St. Marys only returns lead leg, Kate Puderbaugh, while third-place Nodaway Valley is in the same boat with the only potential returnee their lead, Erin Rhoads.
Shuttle hurdle: This was a two-team race then with Central Decatur and Nodaway Valley among the top quartets in the state. CD, though, could only return one (Dale) from that group. Nodaway Valley, meanwhile, could bring back their first two legs in DeVault and Natalie Yonker. Lenox might actually be the favorite, though. They took third in 2019 and could return their lead (Nelson), third (Hogan) and anchor (Stoaks) this season.
Sprint medley: Nodaway Valley was dominant in this race in 2019, and they ran to a win by nearly two seconds. Jena Yonker ran lead while Natalie Yonker ran the third leg. Runner-up MSTM will not have any of their foursome from 2019 running this year. Southeast Warren, though, could have their last two back in Hartman and Balk.
Distance medley: Bedford has been putting together some strong D-Meds recently, but a lot of that was built around Lucas on the anchor. The champ from two years ago would lose her and the two 100s. The only potential returnee is the aforementioned Tracy. Lenox has a strong core back, including Ecklin, Stoaks and Hogan in the 2-3-4 spots. Wayne also could return a strong group with Sterling Berndt running lead and Harvey and Wood on the back two.
To recap, Nodaway Valley has nine potential returnees among the relays that finished in the top three. That’s the leading number in the POI while Lenox (8), Central Decatur (7) and Wayne (5) could also return a good core of relay runners from 2019.
A LOOK BACK AT THE CROSS COUNTRY SEASON
Nodaway Valley won the cross country championship in the POI earlier this year, edging past Mount Ayr by 4 points and Central Decatur by 12. Broers and Hogan went 1-2, Valencia added a fourth-place finish and Jones came in seventh. Some other names to watch this year in track:
-Hagan Arnold, Freshman, Wayne: She placed 10th in the POI meet and qualified for the state cross country meet. Be on the lookout for Arnold to make a move in the 1500 and 3000.
-Hadley Bell, Freshman, Central Decatur: Look for Bell in some distance races and potentially on a 4x800 or distance medley. She was fifth at the POI meet in the fall.
-Harrisen Bevan, Sophomore, Central Decatur: Another youthful distance runner for Central Decatur, and we’re starting to remember why they were a top 3 POI team.
-Lily Day, Sophomore, Nodaway Valley: Day was the third-place finisher at the conference meet and a big reason Nodaway Valley was able to win the POI.
-Karlie Larsen, Sophomore, Mount Ayr: A sixth-place finish in the POI and a state qualification in the fall could mean big things this spring for the standout sophomore.
-Aniston Jones, Freshman, Central Decatur: Yes, another! The Cardinals suddenly look like one of the deepest distance teams in the conference.
That’s six of the top 10 from the POI XC meet that are in their first or second year of high school, and they won’t be alone with three others finishing among the top 14 this past fall.
Nodaway Valley has had some pretty important graduations and defections, but they are still plenty loaded up and down the lineup. They don’t seem to have a big fixture in the field events, but a lot could have changed that in the last two years. I think they still appear to be the favorite in the league.
As for others, Lenox could be one to watch throughout the year. They’ve got a great core of seniors that have been very successful in volleyball and basketball so far this year. Why not make a little move in track, too? Add in Central Decatur, Mount Ayr and Wayne, and I think that’s a pretty solid top five in some order.
Send any questions, comments and/or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.