WEBSTER CITY - The North Central Conference track meet is always star-studded and always competitive down to the very last event.
But this year's tug-of-war for the boys' championship trophy could be something special.
State leaders blanket the entry forms, and winning an event title at the league meet could be just as difficult as pulling off the same feat later this month when the state meet takes place in Des Moines.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City’s Brandon Arkland (front) begins his leg of the 4x800-meter relay after taking the baton from Eric Coleman at the Boone Classic last month. The Lynx will be on the hunt for North Central Conference gold today when they take part in the league meet in Humboldt, beginning at 5 p.m.
Yes, it's that competitive.
"It's going to be an unbelievable meet, just fantastic," WCHS head coach Tony Bussan said. "In this meet, we're going to have the opportunity to challenge ourselves against top-notch competition."
Defending champion Algona will be the pre-meet favorite when the teams converge on Humboldt High School today at 5 p.m. Defending Class 2A state champion Fort Dodge St. Edmond, Webster City and Iowa Falls-Alden will be expected to challenge as well.
All four have premier athletes, but Bussan says Algona's depth gives the Bulldogs the edge entering the meet.
"I think Algona is a clear favorite. Their depth is going to be an issue for everybody," he said. "And we've yet to see St. Edmond when they've used (senior Neil) Flattery to the max, so they'll be tough too.
"If everything would absolutely go the best it could go for us then we'll be in the hunt. All you can do is go in, be a great competitor and give it your best shot. If it's your day and we get on a roll, things could turn out very well. But we could also have a tremendous meet and finish second or third."
Flattery, the Gaels' rock, is the reigning 2A state champion in the 400-meter dash and open 800. The University of Iowa recruit added a Drake Relays title in the 800 to his resume last month.
The feature events will be the sprints where the top three speedsters in 3A will line up alongside one another. Webster City senior Keagan Parks has the fastest 100 time in 3A (10.59 second), while Iowa Falls-Alden's Brandon Norman and Algona's Michael Erpelding share second (10.67).
Norman tops the 3A chart in the 200 (21.75), while Parks is second (21.87) and Erpelding third (22.01).
The same three uniforms will battle it out in the 4x100 as well. Webster City leads 3A (43.43), Iowa Falls-Alden is seventh (43.69) and Algona is eighth (43.70).
Parks, who also leads 3A in the long jump (22 feet, 3 inches) has had success against both of his counterparts, but he's also finished behind Norman in the 100 on two occasions this season. He's coming off a stellar Drake Relays in which he finished fourth in the 100 and sixth in the long jump.
"I think Keagan's ready to give it a shot," Bussan said. "At Drake, it didn't matter who he was up against, he just went out and performed and that's what he's got to do (today) as well."
Lynx senior Andrew May leads the NCC field in the 110 high hurdles, as does classmate Nick Erritt in the shot put.
A total of 39 conference individuals or relays rank in the top 20 in the state in their respective classes, and 26 of them are in the top 10. Bussan says that type of balance will play a role in deciding the final team outcome.
"It's going to come down to where are you going to put your athletes and where are other teams going to put their athletes?" he asked. "And if it is fairly close, then it comes down to point exchanges. Do you beat Algona in an event; do you beat St. Edmond in an event? Because not only are you picking up points, but you're also taking points away from them."
Girls travel to Clarion
The girls' North Central Conference meet will also take place today. The Lynx will travel to Clarion for the event, which will get underway at 5 p.m.
Algona is the overwhelming favorite; the Bulldogs won the crown by 60 points a year ago over Fort Dodge St. Edmond, and they've been rolling up meet championships throughout the spring season.
Webster City was last a year ago, but the Lynx have shown in recent weeks that they can compete. They've topped league rivals in various meets over the past two weeks.
The field events are where the Lynx have thrived, and those four events appear to be their best chance at success today. Sophomore shot put and discus thrower Kaylee Schnathorst has been a consistent top-three performer, freshman Carrie Gerdes sits 12th in the 3A long jump, and sophomore Morgan Gourley has a gold medal in the high jump from the Boone Classic under her belt.