Prep track and field: Area athletes prepare for Blue Oval at Sigourney

Apr. 24—SIGOURNEY — For athletes like Ryan Little that competed on Tuesday in the Sigourney Relays, it was hard not to think about the blue oval.

Just three days away from competing for the third consecutive year in the boys high jump at the Drake Relays, the Albia junior needed only to clear 6-2 to claim the title at Sigourney's home meet. It was a fairly stress-free effort as Little edged Van Buren County senior Tyler Stoltz in battle of two athletes that both competed in the Drake Relays and 2A boys state high jump competitions last spring.

Little won Tuesday's high jump by clearing his first attempts at 6-0 and 6-1. After making it over the bar on his third and final attempt at 6-2, Little took the title after Stoltz missed on four previous attempts before clearing 6-2 himself.

Little could have tried to go even higher, perhaps challenging his school record height of 6-7 which met the 'blue standard' for Drake Relays qualification. Instead, the Albia junior settled for the title at 6-2 hoping to go above and beyond, if necessary, his best career mark in pursuit of the championship flag handed out to winners of each event at the prestigious three-day meet in Des Moines.

"Last year, I was worried before going into Drake about just making it over that starting height," Little said. "Seeing myself clear that height of 6-2 in this meet, I've got a lot of confidence going into Friday. Now that I've seen myself clear that, I'm worried this year about winning the whole thing. It's definitely a different world."

Little wasn't the only Drake Relays qualifier to compete on Tuesday in Sigourney. Reigning 1A state discus champion Anna Hadley did her part to help the Pekin girls track and field team bring home the championship trophy from Sigourney, securing a sweep by winning both the discus and shot put throws.

Hadley set a new meet record on Tuesday with a throw of 135 feet and seven inches in the discus, just over seven feet shy of the 140-9 throw that has Hadley ranked sixth overall in the entire state heading into Friday morning's girls discus competition. Winning the shot put, however, meant edging English Valleys senior Kennedy Axmear by just over two inches with a throw of 36-6.75 in the first head-to-head showdown between the throwers since Hadley edged Axmear by 44 inches for the discus title at last year's 1A girls state track meet.

"I've gone against Kennedy several times. She's gotten the best of me most of the time," Hadley said. "Even last year at state, after I threw 134 feet, I felt like like Kennedy would top it. She's definitely helped push me to do some great things."

The field events ultimately helped Pekin hold off HLV down the stretch as the Panthers claimed three of the four championships during the meet on the way to a nine-point win (88-79) over the second-place Warriors. Kayse Miller set a meet record as the only athlete to clear 5-2 on Tuesday in the girls high jump, helping Pekin extend the advantage gained by Hadley's throwing sweep into double figures.

Pekin also picked up an early win on the track on Tuesday in the 4x800 relay. Audrey Fariss, Krysta Sheetz, Maddy Petrehn and Chloe Glosser posted a time of 10:39.56 beating Van Buren County by over 48 seconds.

"We've got several girls that have been here and know what it takes to compete," Pekin head track and field coach Davis Eidahl said. "Audrey's been here. Chloe's been here. The girls are going to be strong with some good individual events."

Little wasn't the only Albia athlete that used Tuesday's trip to Sigourney to prepare for Drake. McKenna Montgomery picked up four wins in four events, including a meet-record run in the same 1,500 meter run (4:57.09) that Montgomery will be running in on and a track record set in the same 3,000 meters (10:38.99) that Montgomery will be competing in on Saturday afternoon.

"There are always nerves for me before each meet, but this really did get me ready to run at Drake," Montgomery said. "I was surprised I made it. I wasn't even told until Saturday, which was well after everything was finalized last Friday. I didn't expect it, but it's definitely exciting."

The Cardinal girls also tuned up for their own run on Saturday at Drake in the 4x100 relay with a winning run on Tuesday at Sigourney. Addison Adam secured her fourth win of the night after taking the 100 meter (12.63) and 200 meter (27.16) dashes, anchoring both the 4x100 (53.17) and 4x200 (1:53.97) relay wins for the Comets.

"Each win definitely pushed me to run faster each time I stepped back out on the track," Adam said. "I've been working on that quick burst to get my times down. I'm looking forward to Saturday. It's the first time in a very long time our program has anyone compete at Drake. We're looking forward to the competition."

Abby George added a win for the Albia girls in the 800-meter run, setting a new meet record by finishing the half-mile race in 2:22.57. The Lady Dees finished third overall in the Sigourney Relays with 77 points while Cardinal finished fourth with 63.

Columbus Junction, meanwhile, edged Southeast Iowa Superconference north rival Winfield-Mount Union by nine points (101-92) to bring home the boys team title at Sigourney. Pekin finished fourth with 62.5 points, winning the shuttle hurdle relay with Kasey Davis, Robert Brown, Will Adam and Jaedon Wolver producing a time of 1:04.79.

"We've put in a lot of work together heading into this season," Davis said. "We've got a chance to take that shuttle hurdle to state. We're all three or four-sport athlete, so we're all keeping active."

The Van Buren County boys finished fifth overall with 58 points, edging English Valleys by two, while Cardinal finished seventh with 51 points including a sweep by Alec Rachford winning the boys discus (133-6) and shot put (51-4.75) titles edging Comet teammate Isaac Cox (48-2.5) for the shot put title. Albia finished eighth with 44 points including a winning run of 2:00.54 from Ethan Stalzer, setting another record at the Sigourney Relays.

"We really haven't had the good competition we faced in this meet. This gives us a lot to build on going forward," Stalzer said. "I knew I was going to get a good push in the 800. I just focused on my race and hoped it be enough to stay out in front."

The Van Buren County girls finished sixth overall with 41 points, highlighted by a runner-up finish from Rylee Philips, Elli Daugherty, Kayle Snowgren and Callie Kracht in the 4x800 relay. The Sigourney girls finished 12th with 22 points, led by third-place finishes from Addison Yates in the 3,000-meter run and Gwen Gatton in the 400-meter dash while the Sigourney boys placed 10th with 25 points with four-place finishes in four events including Caden Clarahan in both the 110-meter hurdles (17.15) and shot put (41-3).

"This was a great meet with great teams that we don't normally see," Stalzer said of Sigourney's fifth-annual home track and field meet. "It's a great facility with a fast track. It's definitely a meet you circle on your calendar at the start of each season."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.