DES MOINES — Per usual, state track weekend had everything a track fan could ask for. The weekend was highlighted by a state champion, a top six team finish and a strong send-off for a few area seniors.
Bad weather sent a cloud over Friday’s action and forced the shot put to be moved inside the track but nobody handled the adversity better than Mt. Pleasant’s Lexie Magnani. The Panther junior not only won the Clsas 3A sho tput, but she dominated the competition, winning by almost four feet.
“It feels really unreal, even still,” Magnani said Friday afternoon. “IT’s honestly like it didn’t even happen. It’s just a dream.”
Magnani finished with the top throw of 42-05.25, which beat second-place Jaydyn Plmaer of Cedar Point-Urbana, who threw 38-06.75. And that wasn’t Magnani’s only throw that would have won her the competition. She threw 39-04.25 on her first throw and 36-01.50 on her second throw before having her best hurl on her third attempt. Nobody could touch Magnani’s mark in the final three throws, and she brought 10 points to the Panther girls’ team.
Magnani had to throw in a pool of water that built up in the shot put ring throughout the morning, but she says her calm attitude helped her through the inclement weather. After the competition, she ran in to another junior teammate and got to share the good news.
“The first person I saw was Maggie Cristoforo,” Magnani recalled. “I went up to her and said, ‘Now you know a state champion.’ She freaked out and gave me a big hug.”
Cristoforo added four points of her own Friday’s 400-meter hurlde competition. She took fifth in that event, crossing the line in 1:05.83 to place in the event for the third-straight year.
“It was a lot different than last year, because everyone is so much closer in their times this year, which is crazy,” Cristoforo said. “I just came in, horrible weather, track was flooded. I just wanted to P.R., or somwehere near that. I was within .3 of my P.R., which considering the conditions, I’m happy with.”
The only other points for the Panther girls came from the distance medley relay on Friday and the sprint medley on Saturday. Friday morning’s DMR squad of Avery Sutter, Lyndi Vantiger, Cristoforo and Maggie Jennings took eighth in 4:19.45, and Saturday morning’s sprint medley team of Kenna Lamm, Karsyn Lamm, Vantiger and Cristoforo took eighth in 1:53.18.
Vantiger wasn’t able to score in the long jump on Friday, taking 12th. The Mt. Pleasant senior finished her career with some advice for up-and-coming Panthers who will be joining a girls’ team with a lot of promise for next season.
“People coming into this track team are in for it,” Vantiger said. “The girls are great (and) the coaches are great, but they’ll be on you, and they’ll make you a winning runner whether you think you can be or not. It’s all around a winning program, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
The Panther girls finished 13th as a team, scoring 21 points. A trio of juniors; Magnani, Cristoforo and Abby Ryon scored the majority of those points. Ryon wasn’t able to match her great performace on Thursday when Saturday’s 1500 rolled around, taking 18th, but she says she sees a lot of promise when the core of the team returns next year.
“I’ve got great teammates and great coaches that always help push me and make the best person I can be every day,” Ryon said on Saturday. “They’re always there to support me and pick me up when I’m down. I think having that team comradery is really going to help us move forward and score some points.”
The Panther boys had the lead at the end of Thursday’s festivities and held on to it on Friday, but a rough day Saturday dropped them all the way down to a sixth-place tie with Pella. The Panthers ended the meet with a total of 36 points.
Mt. Pleasant was able to tack on 10 points on Friday. Rylan Seberg got things going with a fourth-place finish in the long jump, leaping 12-00.25 on his last attempt.
“Honestly, I felt decently coming in, but the last three weeks, I haven’t been performing to where I want to be,” Seberg said. “The beginning and middle of the year, I was jumping in the high 21s and low 22s. The weather wasn’t cooperating, but it was the same for everybody. I was happy that I was able to get my last jump, and see my progression over my jumps. Fourth wasn’t bad, but I’m definitely going to push myself this offseason and have higher expectations for myself next year.”
Five more points came from the fourth-place distance medley team of Khang Truong, Chase Lamm, Rylan Seberg and Jacob Stukerjurgen, who crossed in 3:35.11, winning their heat in the process.
“Coming in to this season, we lost a great group of seniors last year,” said Truong about the team effort after all his races were over on Saturday. “We didn’t really have high expectations. We knew we’d still compete, but to compete at this high of level, we just weren’t expecgint that.”
Mt. Pleasant’s shuttle hurdle team took fifth place on Saturday, crossing in 1:01.27, adding yet another top-five finish to the Panthers’ long list of successes. With three new varsity runners, expectations weren’t as high as previous years, but the squad of Zach Beason, Tate Shull, Konnor Peterson and Lamm still scored four points for the team.
“Honestly, I couldn’t have thought of a way that it could have gone better,” said Peterson after the race. “These guys are awesome. Chase is really the only one with a lot of experience, and he was a great leader.”
Lamm praised his teammates for stepping up this season and filling in for a trio of seniors that helped the Panthers take second in the event in 2018.
“These three guys had big shoes to fill, but I’m really proud of them,” Lamm said. “They ran relaly well, and I was really thankful for those guys to come out and do what they did. It’s tough not being able to run it every year like I did, and they did really well.”
The Panthers took one more point when the 4X100 team of Truong, Lamm, Seberg and Beason finished eighth on Saturday. An injury to Beason on the backstretch stifled that relay final, but he was able to cross the line to earn that one point.
Saturday also saw the end of the career of cross-country champion Cody Mertens, who took ninth in the 1600 after placing second in Thursday’s 3200. He was disappointed with his result but reflected on a great year of running, and a fantastic career.
“I’ve definitely seen a lot of growth, not just physically, but the way I handle things as well,” Mertens said. “I definitely would have liked to have a better performance, but it was just all I had today. Someone would give their left arm for that place (so) I’m just proud to be here running with everyone, and having great coaches and teammates to help me along the way.”
Teammate Dalton Moyle took 24th in the race. He rose over the last two seasons to be the No. 2 boys’ distance runner behind Mertens, and reflected on what it meant fo rhte two to run together after the race.
“A lot of people confuse us for brothers sometimes, so it’s basically like having a brother there for you all the time,” Moyle said. “We were able to help push each other through all the times, all the training. It was really great to have someone like Cody on the team.”
Winfield-Mt. Unio senior Brandon Snowden had a fantastic weekend, scoring 14 points all by himself in the sprints. Snowden took third in the 100-meter dash, in 11.39 seconds, and then finished second in the 200-meter dash, kicking it in high gear down the stretch to sneak in for second place, in 22.51 seconds.
“It’s my personal record (and) I beat the school record again, so I’m happy,” Snowden said after the 200. “I just really wanted to finish as strong as I could. Like my (qualifying) 100 yesterday, I felt like I had a really strong finish.”
New London senior Lexi Brown took fifth place in the girls’ 1500, crossing the tape in 5:00.83. That gave her two fifths on the weekend. Much like Snowden in the 200, Brown chased down a runner right on the final stretch of the 1500 to earn another top five.
“I just tried running on my toes on the straights, relax a bit on the curves, and then that last about 120 meters, get her at the end. I was not going to let her eat me. I couldn’t.”
The weekend capped off another busy year of state track, and while it closed the book on the careers of a handful of Henry County athletes, it also previewed a bright future for the county’s track and field teams to come.