Hawks’ Super 6 sprinters secure 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 titles

South Hamilton eighth grader Kate Barkema celebrates as she crosses the finish line at Saturday’s Mike Henderson Middle School State Track and Field Meet in Ankeny. Barkema anchored the Hawks’ 4x100-meter relay to a state title in a school-record time of 54.13 seconds. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

JEWELL — The legend of the lucky baton began more than 15 years ago with Becca Swalla, who left a thumb print on the stick that has been passed down through the South Hamilton middle school track and field ranks.

Swalla is something of a folk hero to this generation of budding Hawks. Names like Kelsey Hake and Ariana Wolf, they’re revered as well. The female athletes of today want to emulate their predecessors, both their work ethics and successes.

It’s working.

And somewhere right now, a young girl who is only three or four years old doesn’t know it yet, but 10 years down the road she very well may think the same way when she says names like Tanna Thompson, Makena Galetich, Kailyn Northrop, Ashlyn Erickson, Kate Barkema and Zoey Duns.

South Hamilton’s current crop of standout sprinters put on a show Saturday afternoon at the Mike Henderson Middle School State Track and Field Meet — a massive meet that included more than 1,500 athletes — at Ankeny Stadium.

Left to right, Tanna Thompson, Zoey Duns, Kate Barkema, Makena Galetich, Kailyn Northrop and Ashlyn Erickson pose together after they won three middle school state track titles for South Hamilton on Saturday in Ankeny. Submitted photo

With the lucky baton in tow, the Hawks claimed three state titles in the seventh-grade small-school division 4×200- and 4×400-meter relays, and the eighth-grade small-school division 4×100. School records fell in the 4×100 and 4×200.

Not bad for a group of six runners who made the trek south from Jewell with almost no expectations.

“We were just going to take the 4×100 and then we decided to roll the dice with the seventh graders,” South Hamilton middle school coach Staci Thompson and the mom of speedy seventh-grader Tanna said. “We’re an itty-bitty school, so to go down there and do that, it’s awesome. The South Hamilton tradition is so strong … I’ve told Tanna her whole life about Kelsey Hake and Becca Swalla and Ariana Wolf. They were some of best athletes that South Hamilton has ever had, so when they broke that 4×200 record they were like, ‘holy cow,’ that was a Kelsey Hake record.”

Tanna Thompson, Galetich, Northrop and Erickson ignited the golden flurry by winning the 4×200 going away in 1:56.59.

Galetich and Thompson jumped up into the eighth-grade class with Barkema and Duns to take the 4×100 in 54.13. New Hampton entered the race as the favorite, but Barkema took the lucky baton on the anchor with a lead and extended it down the straightaway. Barkema began to celebrate even before she leaned across the finish line.

Makena Galetich (left) leaps into the air just before stepping into the blocks held by teammate Ashlyn Erickson prior to the start of the 4x100-meter relay at Saturday’s middle school state meet at Ankeny Stadium in Ankeny. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

As for the 4×400 victory in 4:32.6, well, that was just gravy for the Fab Four seventh graders. South Hamilton expected to be chasing Dike-New Hartford, but it was the other way around. In fact, the Hawks won the race by almost five seconds.

“In the 4×400, everything fell into place and we were so excited,” Staci Thompson said. “With this entire group (of six), they’re more concerned with how did we do together, they’re so easy that way. They’re not individualistic at all … their goal was to go down and see how fast they could run against some of these other schools.”

State titles don’t just come by chance though. There’s so much hard work behind the scenes, both in practice and when no one is looking. Coach Thompson said that all six of her sprinters are four-sport athletes — um, wow! — and they all regularly attend the Premier weight training sessions.

“They work hard and they all fit well together,” she said. “They go season to season and out on the track they push each other well.”

That baton, maybe it is lucky. Or maybe there was no luck involved whatsoever. Maybe, just maybe, this generation is just that good.