Making history: Van Meter girls track brings home school's first state track title

Megan Teske
Correspondent
Van Meter's Clare Kelly competes in the Class 2A 4x800 meter relay, during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships, on Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Des Moines.

The Van Meter girls track and field 4x800-meter relay team brought a state title to Van Meter when they won at the state tournament last weekend.

The win, brought home by senior Norah Matt, junior Maya Herman and sophomores Mary and Clare Kelly, was the first Van Meter has ever gotten for track and field.

Head Coach Rick Roberts said the relay team had talked the last couple of weeks about how Van Meter has never had a title in track and how he asked the girls to step up to accomplish that.

More:State track 2021: ADM, Van Meter haul in first titles for area

“All year we’ve been making history for our team, first time ever winning a conference meet and then we went on to win our district meet and then going on to win a state title, those are all first times for our school,” Matt said.

Matt added that all season they’ve been focused on peaking for these last three meets and the Bulldogs’ hard work from all season paid off.

That hard work included Matt and Herman adjusting to the 800-meter length, as they were put into the relay later in the season, as well as the relay team building up team chemistry.

Van Meter's Norah Matt competes in the Class 2A 4x800 meter relay, during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships, on Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Des Moines.

Clare Kelly saw the improvement from her relay team throughout the season. 

“We gained a trust where no matter what happened, we’d all start and finish together, everything was more of like a team, and there wasn’t any individuals, it was win or lose as a team,” Clare Kelly said.

She added that they all grew close to each other, a sentiment Herman echoed.

Herman said the four of them being in the relay together brought them all closer together and made them push each other more.

With Herman and Matt upperclassmen, they helped the Kelly’s adjust to the high school level of track and field, who as sophomores, had never competed at that level before.

Mary Kelly said Herman and Matt were always so positive while Clare Kelly added that they were the best group of girls to be able to run with.

“They’re really good role models and win or lose, regardless how we do, they’re always so supportive and just great people to look up to,” Mary Kelly said.

Herman said Mary and Clare Kelly kind of got a feel for what to expect at the Drake Relays, but she still tried to keep everyone in a positive mindset, hype everyone up and make sure everyone was ready for the race.

Maya Herman of Van Meter runs the Girls 4x400 Meter Relay 2A - Preliminaries during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships, Friday, May 21, 2021.

The positivity from Herman turned out to be needed, as Clare Kelly said they were all nervous before they started the race.

“We were all kinda nervous but we did a little team huddle and we all calmed down and then I think the nervousness turned into adrenaline and then we were able to do it,” Matt said.

After the team won, the runners had varying degrees of the same reaction in the moment.

Clare Kelly said there was an adrenaline rush and added she was in shock, while Mary Kelly said she couldn’t believe they did it.

Herman said it was what the team came to do and was put together to do. She added that when she and Matt were put on the 4x800 relay team, Roberts said they were going to be state champs.

“I have not felt that happy all track season probably, pure joy and excitement, I was so excited,” Herman said.

The win was not only the school’s first state track title, but it was also special for Matt, who wanted to make an impact on the track program before she graduated.

“Knowing that I’m leaving my teammates with a state championship and that the remainder of their high school careers they’re gonna do amazing too,” Matt said. “So it just really means the world to me that I was able to make as much of an impact on the track program as the program has made an impact on me.”

Mary Kelly of Van Meter runs the 2A girls 400 meter hurdles during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships, Friday, May 21, 2021.

The win was also unique for Mary and Clare Kelly, who not only got a state title their first year running track after last season was canceled, but also got it with their sister.

“There’s no one I’d rather win a relay with than her,” Clare Kelly said of Mary. “She’s like my best friend built all in one and there’s no one I trust more, rely on more and it was pretty awesome to be able to share that with her.”

Now with the 2021 season done, the Bulldogs will look to next season.

Herman's goals are to continue to do what they can as a team to win another championship and better herself as a teammate and individually to get her time down.

As for the 4x800 relay team, they’ll lose Matt to graduation, but Clare Kelly said they’ll have some great girls coming up and they have a good shot to win next year as well.

Roberts added that they are looking to build on this season's success.

“The next thing is we want to continue to climb that team ladder, I think we got sixth this year, we might be in that top two… next year probably,” Roberts said.

The 2A Girls Distance Medley relay runs on the blue oval during the Iowa High School Track and Field Championships, Friday, May 21, 2021.