WEBSTER CITY - Two stinkin' hurdles, that's all Andrew May needed to clear to reach elite status last May.
He'd done it hundreds, if not thousands of times in the past with no problem. But for some reason, when he needed his form to be at its best, it just wasn't. And he's had nearly 11 months to think about what went wrong.
"We would've argued that Andrew was one of the best hurdlers in the state last year, but the hurdles are an event where, any given day, if you catch a toe, it's done with," Tony Bussan, May's head coach at Webster City, said. "He was right there, he really was."
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City senior Keagan Parks takes off towards the pit during the Class 3A long jump competition at the 2011 state track meet in Des Moines. Parks won a pair of medals at the meet and he’ll return this spring looking to add to his haul.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
WCHS senior Andrew May (above) competed in two events at last year’s state track meet, but he missed out on qualifying in his favorite event, the 110-meter high hurdles.
May, now a senior, crashed on the eighth barrier in the 110-meter high hurdles at a Class 3A district meet last season and subsequently didn't get a chance to compete at state. It's a hiccup that he fully intends to correct this spring.
"Andrew's our school record holder in the highs, and anytime you break our school record that's saying something," Bussan said. "When you combine his hurdle technique with his speed, we certainly have high goals for him this year."
May is one of a handful of high-goal oriented athletes on the Lynx squad as they go in search of North Central Conference, district and state medals this spring. It could be argued that Bussan possesses his most individually talented squad in the last five years, but the coach is quick to point out that it takes a team to succeed, particularly in the regular season.
"We have some real good individual talent, there's no doubt about that, but we really have some depth issues that will be a big story over the course of the season," he said. "What we choose to do very well we could be very good at, but how effective we're going to be as a team will depend on how well we're going to be able to fill our gaps."
May and fellow seniors Keagan Parks, Nick Erritt and Andrew Laird will provide the leadership.
Parks is one of the more dynamic sprinters and jumpers in 3A. He placed third in the 100-meter dash at last season's state meet and was seventh in the long jump despite skipping two jumps at the tail end of the competition.
Parks didn't start competing in the long jump until the end of the regular season.
But Bussan says keeping Parks healthy is priority No. 1, particularly during the first month of this season. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound sprinter was forced to pull out of the 200 at last spring's district meet because of a leg injury, and it's an ailment that Bussan says he'll need to keep close tabs on again.
"We've got to get him through the year healthy ... we didn't go to the state meet (last year) 100 percent healthy and that's something we're going to have to make decisions on this year," Bussan said. "So Keagan's jumping is going to be limited because that's a large body mass to move through the air and land."
Erritt, junior Boone Myers and freshman Cal Zahn also add to Webster City's dynamic lineup in the field events.
Erritt is the defending conference shot put champion and he went on to place 15th at state. Myers has the potential to pop long throws in both the shot put and discus, and Zahn has already cleared 6-4 in the high jump during the indoor portion of the season, just 1 inch off the school record.
"We should be able to come out of the field events strong," Bussan said. "We think Nick's going to have another excellent year, and we do need Boone to show good progress in both the discus and shot put.
"Cal is excited and he is an extremely focused freshman. I know he's going to work hard and he will improve over the course of his career."
Other returning state qualifiers include Lucas Poland and Dylan Fielder, who joined May on the shuttle hurdle relay, and middle distance runner Ethan Glenn. But Glenn will miss a chunk of the season with a strained calf.
Bussan tags defending 2A state champion Fort Dodge St. Edmond as the preseason favorite in the conference, but the list of challengers is lengthy, and it includes his own team.
"St. Edmond has got a talented team, but so does Algona and Iowa Falls has one of the best sprinters in the state as well," Bussan said. "You can go throughout the conference and there are returning state place winners, so it's going to come down to who is healthy, who does the work and who is able to hang on to their points while everybody else beats up on each other."
Webster City will open up its outdoor season tonight at the Forest City Invite.