DES MOINES - Attention boys in the Webster City High School Class of 2022: You may want to begin developing into sprinters right now.
If recent trends continue, you may just end up being a state champion.
On the 10-year anniversary of the last time it won the Class 3A 4x100-meter relay state title, Webster City again seized the gold in the quick-exchange and churning legs event inside Drake Stadium on Saturday during the final day of competition at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships. It capped a brilliant day - easily the greatest in the long history of the program - that featured three state crowns, a runner-up result and 38 points that catapulted Webster City from well back in the pack to second place in the final team standings, last accomplished in 1916.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Webster City freshman Cal Zahn leaps into the arms of senior Keagan Parks after they and teammates Nathan Nuehring and Andrew May won the Class 3A 4x100-meter relay title on Saturday at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships in Des Moines. Parks also won the 100 and 200, and May claimed the silver in the 110 high hurdles on the final day at the blue oval to propel the Lynx to the state team runner-up trophy.
The Lynx finished with 48.33 points, trailing only team champion Decorah (65), which was clear of the field by Friday. Spirit Lake Park (45) needed to win the 4x400 to shove past the Lynx, but had to settle for fourth and the bronze team trophy. Marion (44) was fourth and Fort Madison (40) took fifth.
"We had to darned-near sweep every event (on Saturday) and we came as close as you can, so I'm so proud of the guys," WCHS head coach Tony Bussan said. "Before the day started we really debated as a coaching staff what we were going to say to the kids, but we ended up giving them a point projection and we told them that we needed at least 36 points to be in the money, and we said it would be helpful to run the table."
WCHS was fourth entering the 4x100 and the foursome of junior Nathan Nuehring, senior Andrew May, freshman Cal Zahn and senior Keagan Parks knew they needed to finish third or better to move into the top three.
Seeded sixth, the quartet flew out of Lane 7 to the front. Nuehring, May and Zahn hit their exchanges with perfection and set Parks up to bring the title home.
He did just that, zipping past three runners and leaning across the finish line with a winning and school-record time of 43.29 seconds.
"I'm so happy right now. It just couldn't have gone any better," Nuehring, the lead-off runner, said after he'd exchanged hugs with each of his teammates.
May ran the second leg and the gold medal eased some of the pain that came from his runner-up result in the 110 high hurdles earlier in the day.
"It's an excellent feeling to go out on that note," May said. "I saw Keagan get the baton and I thought maybe the lead was too big, but I think that every time and Keagan always pushes us forward."
It was the final feather in an already medal-filled cap for Parks, who became the first sprinter in school history to win the 100 crown. An hour later he verified his title as the class' best sprinter by capturing the 200 gold.
"This means a lot to me, and I just want to say that I'm coached by the best," Parks said following his 100 victory in 11.40 seconds against a vicious headwind. "Tony Bussan, (assistant coaches) Chad Hisler and Joe Lambert, and (WCHS football coach) Bob Howard, they pushed me to be the person I am and it feels so good to be a state champ for them."
Parks and rival Brandon Norman of Iowa Falls-Alden - the 100 runner-up in 11.45 - went stride for stride down the final straightaway in the 200 and they leaned across the finish line at the same exact moment. But Parks' 6-foot-1 frame was the difference, as he won in 22.73 to Norman's 22.75.
"It was very close," Parks conceded. "Brandon is very good out of the blocks and it was a really good raced. Luckily I got it."
The headwind that reached 5 mph played a factor in the clockings, but Parks says he's been conditioned to run into the elements.
"I can deal with the weather," he said. "In the summertime, Coach Howard always made us run with parachutes on our backs in the wind, so I can handle that."
Like Parks in his two individual events, May entered the 110 high hurdles final as the favorite, and for a while he appeared to be on his way to gold. But then he clipped a hurdle midway through the race; it pushed him off-stride for a split second and that made the difference. He finished in 15.01, a few steps behind champion Austin Hess of Harlan (14.74).
"I got off to a good start, but then I hit a hurdle and lost a little bit and couldn't gain it back," May said. "But it's gone and over with so there's nothing I can do about it now. I can live with silver."
Nick Erritt, the third piece of the senior trio, gave WCHS five crucial points Friday afternoon with a fourth-place finish in the shot put. He threw a personal-best 53 feet, 7.5 inches in the prelims and upped it to 53-10.5 in the finals.
"In warm-ups I was feeling really good and I was really confident going into my throws," Erritt said. "You can't be disappointed when you PR and any points at the state meet are crucial. I'm just glad I was able to help out any way I could."
Parks picked up the first of his four medals on Friday; he placed fourth in the long jump (21-7).
"We've had tremendous senior leadership from those three guys - Erritt, May and Parks," Bussan said. "When you reach my stage in a career, you really appreciate that those kids don't come along but once in a career. They're just tremendous young men."
Also on Day 2, May finished 16th in the 400 low hurdles (56.23), and the 1,600 medley relay - Nuehring, Zahn, Eric Coleman and Ethan Glenn - was 23rd (3:50.12).