State on the line, it’s go time

WEBSTER CITY – For one team it’s all about picking and choosing its spots. For the other team it’s going to be a meet to throw everything against the wall to see just how much can stick.

It’s now or never.

That’s the attitude that both Webster City track and field teams take into today’s Class 3A State Qualifying Meet at Gilbert High School. Field events will get underway at 4 p.m., with running to begin at 4:30 p.m.

The top two place winners in each event will automatically be included in next week’s state meet field. The next eight best performers from all of the non-automatic qualifiers across the state will earn invitations as well.

The WCHS girls’ team enters with plenty of reasons to be optimistic, namely the fact that it boasts first or second seeds in seven events and three other events where it sits in the top five.

“We have to perform, but we’ve got a good shot at seven or eight events, I would think,” WCHS girls’ head coach Clint Howard said. “But that’s living up to the times that we’ve posted before.

“We’re confident as a staff and team that we’re right where we want to be. They girls are peaking right now and they have a good opportunity to run faster than we have.”

It will start in the throws though where sophomore Cassidy Nerland is the favorite in the discus and seeded second in the shot put. Her top throw of 41 feet, 4 inches is second in 3A, trailing only Gilbert’s Mia Davis who will throw right after her today.

Nerland didn’t have her best showing at last week’s North Central Conference meet, but Howard says she’s using that as motivation in the postseason.

“I know she was disappointed following the conference meet, but she learned from it and she’s responded well,” he said. “She’s had a couple of good nights of practice and I’m confident she’ll perform well.”

Senior sprinter Allie Flaws will attempt to qualify in four events – two individual and two relays. She’s seeded second in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes behind Boone’s Dianna Slight. She also anchors the second-seeded 4×200 and third-seeded 4×100.

Kali Dawson, Kenzie Garvey and Haley Flaws complete the 4×100, which sits ninth overall in 3A. Zoey Woodle replaces Garvey on the 4×200.

“Allie is strong at this point and confident,” Howard said. “I think she’ll handle her business.”

Garvey will have the opportunity to get to state on her own as well; she will step into the blocks as the No. 2 seed in the 100 hurdles. Haley Flaws is one of four high jumpers that has cleared 5-0.

Facing a star-studded field, the WCHS boys’ team understands that it will have fewer chances to crash the top-two party, and that’s why head coach Tony Bussan says he will pull out of several events altogether to prioritize others.

“We’ve got a very young team, so for the majority of the squad it’s going to be a chance to compete one last time and try to improve one last time,” Bussan said. “We have a handful of events that we can take a shot at and in each of those cases it may not be trying to finish in the top two, but to see if we can get a time that would qualify.”

The Lynx 4×100 of Jordan Tanner, Zane Carter, Payton Kannuan and Noah Perfect is seeded second and seventh overall in the state’s second largest class. Cory Keenan will replace Tanner on the 4×200 that is seeded fifth, but has an outside chance.

“It comes down to stick work,” Bussan said. “If we hit the sticks the way we did at conference and if we’re able to improve, we think we have a real opportunity. But any glitch with the stick and that changes.”

Thrower James Cherry could find himself in the hunt if he could put together his best performances of the season. He enters as the No. 4 seed in the shot put and No. 5 seed in the discus.

Kannuan was a state entrant in the long jump a season ago and sits sixth amongst today’s field. The shuttle hurdle relay is also sixth.

“Payton has performed very well in the long jump this season,” Bussan said. “With the shuttle hurdle relay, we will have to probably run a season’s best time to have a shot if we aren’t in the top two. But we think that’s a legitimate shot.”

The state meet will again be held at Drake Stadium in Des Moines next Thursday through Saturday.