DES MOINES — A brilliant finish on the final day of competition helped the Waukee girls’ track team capture its second consecutive state title on May 18 at Drake Stadium.
The Warriors outscored Pleasant Valley 38-23 on the final day, leapfrogging the Spartans to eke out a 80-78 nail-biting victory that came down to the final event of the three-day marathon meet.
"At a state meet that’s three days long, there’s always time to find that rebounding moment, that catalyst that you can go after and go get it done," said coach Jesse Hunt, whose squad boasted a senior class of 21. "It’s just a privilege and an honor to coach these girls. The determination they have is unreal."
The shuttle hurdle foursome of Emma Drees, Emily Kamm, Mallory Smith and Maddie Rouw broke their own state record in the event, lowering the mark to 1 minute, 1.87 seconds. That broke the 1:02.22 they ran to win the Drake Relays last month.
"It’s really bittersweet because it’s our last time running together, but we did what we wanted to do," Rouw said.
Smith, a junior, relished the chance to run one last time with her senior teammates.
"After Drake, we set such a high goal that I didn’t know if we’d ever be able to beat it again," Smith said. "But we did. I have to lose these girls next year - it’s just a bittersweet moment."
The sprint medley team of Abby Krantz, Gabi Gaines, Tori Giudici and Taylor Officer placed seventh, and freshman Talia Buss netted sixth-place finishes in the 100 and 200. Rouw (15.04) and Smith (15.40) went third and sixth in the 100 hurdles, and the 4x100 team of Krantz, Gaines, Giudici and Buss jumped two spots to finish third in 48.45. The same foursome was also second in the 4x200.
That meant Waukee needed a fifth-place finish or better in the 4x400 to hold off Pleasant Valley. Despite a Spartan victory in the event, the Warriors’ Taylor Gates, Officer, Keely Smith and Kayla Sabotin clinched the team title with a fourth-place finish.
The Warriors, who started the day 13 points back, rallied to beat the Spartans by just two points.
"They’re a resilient group of girls," Hunt said. "They’ve demonstrated numerous times that they can rise to the occasion."
The meet began on a strong note with a discus victory by Erin Bramble, a three-time qualifier in the event. She threw 136 feet, 5 inches to reach the finals, then uncorked a 138-11 heave on her first throw to outpace the competition. Teammate Alyssa Cady was 10th with a throw of 118-0.
"I thought it was going to be decent, but I didn’t know it was going to be a 138," Bramble said of her winning throw. "It was a lot of fun. I just wanted to make sure the team started off well."
Sabotin, Officer, Keely Smith and Erika Lewis won the team’s second 4x800 state title in a row. Lewis ran a 2:15 anchor leg and crossed the line first in 9:14.64, holding off Valley’s Emily Seibel and Ames’ Caroline Marnin in the final 20 meters.
"Even with physical workouts, we had to mentally prepare for it too," Sabotin said. "We knew there was going to be really hard competition and we’d have to fight for it and run hard, as fast as we could."
Waukee qualified in 18 of 19 events. Rouw and Kamm were third and fifth in the high jump, Lewis and Drees were seventh and eighth in the 400 hurdles and Drees placed eighth in the long jump.
Rachel Brush was 17th in the 3,000, Caroline Slaughter and Bramble were 11th and 14th in the shot put, Lewis was 10th in the 800 and 17th in the 1,500, and the distance medley team of Krantz, Giudici, Officer and Sabotin was 13th.
"Not everything went according to plan, and not everything happened how we wanted it to, but the team was able to fight back," Bramble said. "We really came together as a team and worked as a whole instead of individuals."
That’s been the goal all along, Hunt said.
"It really takes a team to win a state championship," he said. "When you have that much commitment, they embrace a team concept. (Whether) you’re going to be a Drake Relays champion or a sixth-place finisher in the 200 at a JV race, we’re all doing our best, all working together and all have value to this team.
"The idea is that we can inspire others to be better people, better teammates and better competitors just from how we worked."