May 29, 2024

Panthers send seven events to state

Casen Dryden passes the baton to Seth Gordon in the distance medley relay. The team won the race with a 3:39.7 to advance to state.

ATLANTIC — A year ago, the Panthers qualified only three events. This year they are sending seven after success at the state qualifying meet Thursday in Atlantic.

The girls 4x800m relay was the first to punch their ticket to the state meet.

Coming in, ADM had a good lead on the competition with Glenwood and Creston in a deadlock for second. With the first two auto qualifying, the pressure was on for silver.

Maylee Riley got things started for the Panthers on the opening leg.

“I tried to stay with the toughest girls I would compete the best with,” Riley said. “On the second lap, the hardest was to turn over and get that third 200 and to basically just start sprinting. I wanted to get a 2:25, 2:26. I got right on my goal.”

Hope Henderson, Avery Staver and Payton Davis brought home the second-place finish in 10:01.06, earning them the 15th seed at state.

Hope Henderson runs the second leg of the girls 4x800m relay Thursday in Atlantic. The girls qualified with a second-place finish in 10:01.06

“The girls coming in second in that 4x8 is amazing,” Coach Maggie Arnold said. “We thought the girls might have to qualify at large. Coach [Clay] Arnold set the order in the 4x8. If we used the order we had been using, I’m not sure I would’ve qualified. He took a huge chance in switching that up and I really think that was the right call.”

The boys 4x800 was a battle with Atlantic. Austin Evans got the lead for the Panthers in the first leg.

“It’s my job to get us out there and get us in a good position in the relay,” Evans said. “Those three guys that follow me, I know they have my back. I set them up and they finish the job.”

The Panthers fell behind in the second leg, but Brandon Briley was able to make the comeback in the third leg.

Freshman Davin Wallace, the eighth grade 400m champion from a year ago, was on the anchor leg. The Atlantic anchor made an attempt to come back, but Wallace held him off to get the win for the Panthers. The time of 8:26.45 ranks the Panthers 22nd.

Creston freshman Davin Wallace comes down the final stretch in the boys 4x800m relay ahead of the Atlantic anchor. The 4x800 is one of three relays in which the boys qualified for state.

“I was trying to PR and do the best for the team I possibly could,” Wallace said. “I was very happy with the outcome of today. It ended up just as I hoped it would turn out.”

The two relays run Thursday morning at state: the girls at 11:20 and boys at 12:10. Both relays will be competing in the first heat.

The boys distance medley relay of Casen Dryden, Seth Gordon, Evans and Briley qualified in 3:39.7, earning them an 11th ranking and a spot in the middle heat.

Due to the rapid nature of the state qualifying meet, Evans ran the 800 leg and Briley ran the 400. With the state meet being spread over three days, the two will be able to switch.

“Flip me and Austin around and we should be able to take off four maybe five seconds,” Briley said. “That should break our own school record and get us a medal.”

The boys distance medley runs Friday morning at 9:40.

Freshman Tom Mikkelsen was the first to qualify in an individual event.

His throw of 54-04.5 topped his previous PR of 52-07 by nearly two feet, and he did it on his first throw.

“It felt good to put the competition out there,” Mikkelsen said. “I just wanted to go out, throw a PR and see what I could do.”

His throw ranks him fifth and places him in the second flight at 11:30 a.m., Friday.

After qualifying for state in the 800 last year, Briley finished 11th, placing third in the slower heat. This season, he’s earned a spot in the fast heat with his qualifying time of 1:59.29.

“In the open 800 I was trying to get the fast heat,” Briley said. “Qualifying in all four events was the goal.”

The time ranks him eighth for his run at 11:10.

Staver, a sophomore transfer from East Union, ran a :26.47 to place third in Atlantic. With only top two automatically qualifying, it was a waiting game to see if she’d make the cut.

Avery Staver runs the third leg of the 4x800m relay. She qualified in both the relay and the 200m dash.

Friday it was announced her time ranks 22nd, placing her in the third heat at 10:40 a.m. Thursday. If she advances through the preliminaries, she will run again at 1:55 Saturday.

The meet came to a close with one of the most exciting finishes of the night.

Evans started the relay as usual, getting the Panthers into a good spot. It was ADM leading the race with Creston, Atlantic and Glenwood fighting for second.

As Wallace and Seth Gordon ran their legs, first place still escaped the Panthers.

Briley took the handoff in third, falling behind around the first corner. But he knew it wouldn’t last.

“I was thinking that I have more want than they do,” Briley said. “I want it more than they do so I’ve just got to push harder than they do and outwork them.” He did just that, winning the race for the Panthers in 3:27.19, a time ranking them seventh. They compete in heat one at 2:10 Friday.

“I’m super happy for Austin and Brandon and all they events they qualified in tonight,” Arnold said. “They’ve had a lot of teammates quit on them in the last four years and they stuck it out. They put in the work and they just deserve to be running times like that. They were amazing.”

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.