With the Co-Ed State Track and Field Meet right around the corner, head coach Clay Arnold and the Creston girls have been prepping through the week to get ready for the final meet of the season.
The Panthers have shifted to morning practices to balance their psyche with the morning schedules of their events Thursday and Friday.
With the warmest conditions of the season expected, Arnold and company are glad to be taking advantage of the cooler weather in the morning.
“There isn’t going to be anyone acclimated to that weather, so we will all be in the same boat,” said Arnold. “Luckily we got the morning session so at least we won’t be sitting around all day in it (the heat).”
The Panthers open up the state meet with one of their strongest relay events of the season in the 4x800 meter relay run at 11:45 a.m. Thursday morning.
The quartet of Braelyn Baker, Peyton Rice, MaKenna Hudson and Brielle Baker qualified with the third fastest time in Class 3A and a season best time of 9:50.93.
Without having the weight of running in other events beforehand Arnold noted that he plans on flipping the legs of Hudson and Braelyn Baker, meaning Hudson will lead off the event and Braelyn will run in the third spot.
Creston will start out in the third lane of the final heat and be placed next to Iowa Falls-Alden, whose foursome includes three twins (Lauren Juhl, Maddy Juhl and Grace Juhl) that are coming off a state title in the event last year in which they ran a 9:21.70.
The Juhl’s and Ellie Meyer posted the quickest qualifying time in the state in 9:36.11.
“The girls definitely want to get a very high medal. The Juhl triplets from Iowa Falls are pretty good, but we’ve got a very high ceiling too,” said Arnold. “If we run a school record, we can probably assure ourselves of a medal.”
Brielle Baker – who set the school record in the 1,500 early this season with a 4:57.63 – joined the state field with a qualifying mark of 5:01.59, the seventh fastest of all Class 3A qualifiers.
Her younger sister Braelyn will be able to push her as she is also in the 1,500 after gaining an at-large spot with a mark of 5:06.59.
Those two are set to run at 2:45 p.m. Saturday on the Blue Oval.
Brielle, who qualified in four events, will also run in the open 800 at 10:30 a.m Saturday morning where she qualified with the 11th fastest time of 2:25.26 and the 4x400 meter relay.
Off of the track will be Kelsey Fields, competing at state in both the shot put and discus for the second year in a row. Fields, who was sixth last year in the shot put, will enter the grand stage with the best qualifying mark in Class 3A.
Since the Drake Relays, Fields has been a force to be reckoned with in the shot put, throwing over 40 feet consistently after not breaking the mark to that point in her throwing career.
“The technique is so important and the strength is so important that a lot of people coming in as freshman and sophomores, ... just aren’t there in terms of technique and strength,” said Arnold. “Kelsey came in with good strength and pretty solid technique. ... I really think the difference in the last three weeks is being a little hungrier.”
She will be the final shot tosser in the second flight set to throw Friday at 9 a.m.
In the discus, the Panther sophomore hasn’t let up either, qualifying for the state meet with a school record throw of 128 feet, 2 inches. That marked the fourth best toss of any state qualifier last Friday.
Fields will be the first Panther competing at the Co-Ed State Track and Field Meet, kicking things off at 9 a.m. Thursday morning with the discus.
Back on the track
Like the Bakers, there will be two Fields sisters competing at Drake University over the three-day event.
Brianna Fields joins Ashley Reynard, Hudson and Braelyn Baker in the distance medley, which qualified in eighth with a time of 4:21.16.
For Brianna Fields and Reynard, it will be their first time running on the Blue Oval.
The foursome will run in the last heat and in lane eight at 9:20 a.m. Friday and will be looking to bring home some hardware.
While noting that plenty of individuals and relays win out of the slower heats every year, Arnold added that he thinks seeing the toughest competition brings out the best in the Panther racers.
“It’s a great advantage, especially for us to compete in the fast heat,” said Arnold. “We’ve got a lot of good racers up there and not a lot of pacers. ... We definitely have girls that are competitive enough to go after people in those fast heats.”
Peyton Rice will be running in lane five of the first heat of the 400 meter dash, starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Rice qualified with the 18th fastest time in Class 3A in 1:03.33 while the fastest qualifying time came from Madison Jochum of Bishop Heelan, who ran a 58.29.
The Panthers’ sprint medley foursome of Rice, Reynard, Brianna Fields and Hudson posted the 23rd quickest time of the 24 qualifiers and will start in lane one of heat one at 9:24 a.m. Saturday morning.
Creston will also open up the 4x400 meter relay preliminaries Friday at 1:40 p.m. as Braelyn Baker, Rice, Brielle Baker and Hudson qualified with the 19th fastest time (4:13.50) of 24 relay groups and will run in lane one of the opening heat.
It wasn’t the Panthers’ quickest time of the season, which was clocked in at 4:07.88 at the Hawkeye 10 meet May 2.
“We’ve got potential for a lot of medals. It just depends on how bad we want them,” Arnold said.
For a full rundown of all of the News Advertiser area athletes competing and the schedule of their events, see accompanying story.