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Girls win Gruber Relays

1-2 finish in long jump, Troyer reaches shot put goal
Seniors Sophie Nicol and Molly Duckett make the connection at the baton pass in the distance medley relay April 17 at the Denny Gruber Relays, at the Solon Outdoor Events Center. Solon’s girls won the team title over seven other schools. (photo by Joe Wilkinson)

SOLON– In a cold, wet track season with five cancelled meets early, you want reasonable weather, and a win, for your big home meet. Mission accomplished for Solon’s girls.
With wins in six events and runner-up points in eight more, Solon outdistanced the eight-school field with 164.5 points at the Denny Gruber Relays, April 17. Mount Vernon, with 107.5, was second. North Cedar had 77 for third. Marion (70), Vinton-Shellsburg (49), Davenport Assumption (46), Dyersville Beckman (44) and Iowa City Regina (27) filled out the field.
The Spartans got off to a flying start, with 47.5 points out of the four meet-opening field events. That included a one-two finish in the long jump. Khaylor Fleck won it, with 16-11, with teammate Taylor Ryan (16-9 1/2) just a heelprint behind. “The long jump success has really come out of nowhere for us,” remarked Solon Coach Brent Sands. “Khaylor has gone over 16 feet for three meets in a row… including her 17-5 (Drake Relays) qualifier. “Then, Taylor’s 16-9 1/2, after jumping for the first time.”
Abby Smith notched 5-0 again in the high jump for second. Olivia Felton (4-6) was fifth. Elli Becicka flipped the discus 107-7– another personal best, for second place. Jenna LaDage topped 100 feet (by two inches) for fifth.
In the shot put, Emily Troyer heaved another eye-opener… winning with 41-7 1/2. That topped her 39-foot personal best in her last meet. And THAT had been a two feet bump over the previous meet. So what’s going on in her midseason surge? “My footwork. I’m getting my drive leg under me, to get more push into the throw. I hit a good throw twice today,” explained Troyer.
Yet, while all the work on technique is paying off, it doesn’t hurt to lean on superstition just a little. “Before the meet today, every meet day, I write my goal on my wrist,” Troyer said. For the Gruber meet? Troyer showed the inked “41” on her arm. And next meet? “Oh, I think 43… 44?”
On the track, Solon notched first in the meet-opening sprint medley (800) relay, with a meet record 1:51.26, courtesy of Sophie Nicol, Molly Duckett, Taylor Ryan and Erin Kerkhoff . Kerkhoff picked up another first, in the open 400 meters (1:00.08), with teammate Ashley Stinocher fourth (1:07.38). Gabbi Bullard’s 1:07.69 was a blue ribbon performance in the 400 hurdles, perhaps the toughest event to master in a high school meet. “I’ve been working on form; on hitting the steps (between the hurdles), said Bullard. “Working on all that; it will come in time.”
“We like where Gabbi is at right now,” reviewed Sands. “With all the cancellations, we maybe have not been able to get her time where she had hoped, but she is finishing stronger. We’re excited to see what she can do when we get some good weather and she is fresh.” Teammate Sophie Nicol was fourth in 1:13.45.
Sands also noted improvement in the shuttle hurdle relay. Bullard, Rachael Nelson, Molly Duckett and Peyton Sands have qualified the event for Drake, running 107.81. That still was just short of Mount Vernon’s winning time, taking home the annual plaques provided in honor of the late Harold Wilkinson, former Solon coach who took pride in developing great hurdlers.
Maybe next year? They were less than a second from the school record on a chilly, 45-degree evening. “They are kind of unique. They do not have that one big-time closer that many of the top teams have. They do it with four above-average hurdlers and are solid through all four legs,” Sands noted.
Also stacking up points for the Spartans? Ryan, Fleck, Smith and Kerkhoff were first in the 4x400 relay (4:10.96). Duckett, Caylee Annis, Sands and Nelson took second in the 4x100 (52.40). A one-two finish by Annis (27.32) and Smith (27.33) couldn’t have been closer, and meant another 18 points on the Solon scorecard. Sands (16.86) and Nelson (17.00) were fifth and sixth in the 100 hurdles. Fleck was second in the 100, at 13.29.
Less than a 10th of a second separated North Cedar from Solon’s 4x200 runner-up quartet of Ryan, Annis, Fleck and Smith (1:49.88). Solon’s Kiersten Conway was fourth in the 3,000 (12:03.03), with Jenna Bachus eighth (15.17.68). Conway also anchored the 4:49.27 distance medley relay, after Nicol, Duckett and Bullard brought around the baton. Stinocher, Calista Haasl, Aira Foster and Saige Hauer were fourth for Solon in the 4x800 relay (11:01.16).