Prep track and field: Area athletes compete at state indoor meet

Mar. 8—AMES — At one point on Thursday, the Fairfield boys track and field team was in contention to win the Class 3A boys title at the Iowa state indoor track and field championship meet.

The Trojans racked up 14 points in three events, moving Fairfield into second place in the Class 3A boys team standings. Only Gilbert, with 16 points, had scored more points early in the event.

Fairfield opened the day winning the opening heat of the boys distance medley, finishing eighth overall in 3:47.91. Ryan Giberson and Eli Zillman then contended for the 3A boys high jump title, finishing as two of the final four athletes in the event with both Trojan teammates clearing the bar at 6-3.

Ultimately, Fairfield finished 16th out of 28 teams in the 3A field. Four different Trojan athletes produced personal bests during the season-opening meet at the Leid Recreation Center.

"We got off to a great start," Fairfield head track and field coach Brian Dunlap said. "The kids ran well. The handoffs went well. Gabe (Tejada) was on the end of that distance medley and ran a 2:05 split. That's a good way to start the indoor season. We also go a 55-second leg on the 400. Hopefully, we'll see all of those times come down as the season goes on."

Tejada also produced a personal record in the 800-meter run, finishing 14th in 2:10.91. Caden Allison added a personal-best throw of 40 feet and 10 inches, placing 27th in the boys shot put for the Trojans.

Giberson and Zillman, however, stole the show for Fairfield. Giberson cleared his first four attempts of the competition while Zillman vaulted onto the podium by clearing his third and final attempt at 6-3, clinching a top-four finish of his own.

"That's the best feeling in the sport to see that you're one of the last guys competing for a championship," Giberson said. "I was nervous, but it's that excited-type of nervous. That's the main reason I do this.

"I was feeling confident all day. Getting over 6-3 was huge for me to clear my personal best," Zillman added. "It feels amazing to finish this high in a state competition."

Giberson ultimately finished second in the 3A boys high jump, falling short of clearing 6-5. Bishop Heelan senior Jaron Bleeker claimed the title after clearing 6-5 on his second attempt with Gilbert senior Dillon Zwanziger finishing third and Zillman placing fourth.

"The competition brings out the best in both of us," Giberson said. "It's a lot of fun. At the end of the day, it makes both of us work that much harder to be at our best.

"We're always pushing each other because we know what we can do," Zillman added.

Giberson and Zillman were the first two area athletes to claim medals at the state indoor meet. Albia medaled in six different events, including a pair of runner-up finishes from McKenna Montgomery in the girls' 2A 1,500 and 3,000 meter runs on Friday afternoon leading the Lady Dees to a tie for seventh place as a team with 29 total points.

"Nothing Makenna does at this point stuns me," Albia track and cross-country coach Todd Ratliff said.

Abby George finished third for the Albia girls in the 400-meter dash, crossing the finish line in 1:01.39. George, Montgomery, Avery Major and Aliyah Hood also earned state indoor medals by placing fourth in the girls' 4x400 relay in 4:26.19.

"It's pretty amazing to watch young people be willing to put that type of effort and confidence out there in what they're doing," Ratliff said.

Ryan Little earned a high jump medal of his own for the Albia boys, finishing fifth clearing the bar at 6-1. Ethan Stalzer also finished fifth for the Blue Demons in the boys' 800-meter dash, crossing the finish line in 2:02.93.

The Cardinal track and field teams also brought home multiple medals during the state indoor track and field championships. Alec Rachford finished second in the 2A boys shot put, finishing with a personal-best throw of 49 feet and 11 inches while Addison Adam reached the podium in the girls' 60-meter dash, finishing fourth in 8.15 seconds.

Reigning 1A state discus champion Anna Hadley returned to the shot put ring on Friday for the Pekin girls, reaching 40 feet with her fifth throw of the competition placing second overall in the state indoor meet. AGWSR senior Abby Veld edged out Hadley, who medaled in both the shot put and discus throws as a freshman last season, with a throw of 40 feet and 4.5 inches.

"It's pretty great that I could win a state championship as a freshman," Hadley said. "Hopefully, I can do it again over the next three years. That would be amazing."

Chloe Glosser also earned a pair of state indoor medals on Friday, finishing third for the Pekin girls in the 1A 1,500 meter run in 5:06.8 before anchoring the Panthers to a third-place finish in the 4x800 relay. Kasey Miller also reached the podium for the Panthers in the 1A girls' high jump, clearing the bar at 4-11.

The Pekin boys also medaled in a pair of events on Thursday during 1A competition. Caden Bender finished sixth for the Panthers in the shot put, reaching a personal-best distance of 45-4.25, while the shuttle hurdle relay team of Will Adam, Robert Brown, Kacey Davis and JaeDon Wolver finished fourth in 35.36 seconds.

The Ottumwa boys, competing in their second meet of the opening week, finished the 4A state indoor meet on a high note. Justin Ockenfels, Jonatan Villatoro Jonathan Miller and Chase Thompson finished 22nd in the closing 4x400 relay race, lowering their time from Monday's season-opening Wartburg Invitational by eight seconds crossing the finish line in 3:47.78.

"We made a lot of great progress in that final race," Ottumwa head boys track and field coach John Lawrence said. "We've got a lot of new faces that we're counting on to step up for us this season. It's encouraging to see that much early-season improvement from the guys."

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