Boys' State Track: Individual medals spark Rams to top 15 finish at state
By BRANDON HURLEY
A lack of fear can do wonders for even the most gifted of track stars.
Nerves are often the most cut-throat of opponents. They cast doubt and create unnecessary distractions, throwing off routine while spoiling even the greatest performances. The ability to tune out the impending difficulties, to overcome those crippling nerves is what makes the most successful athletes.
A short-term memory was Greene County’s greatest ally last week, punctuating a top-notch spring.
A handful of medals spring-boarded the local high school to a 15th place finish at the annual Iowa state track and field meet May 16-18 in Des Moines.
The eventual results didn’t come easily, as the team’s highest placements teetered on the edge of disaster. But true to their relative calm demeanors, Colby Kafer and Carter Morton tapped into their experience and prevailed.
After a mishap on his opening jump, Kafer recovered to take home a silver medal in the Class 2A long jump while Morton’s early struggles motivated him to leap his way a bronze in the high jump, in addition to several other prestigious honors.
Morton produced one heck of an all-around performance in his third state meet appearance, also securing a medal in the 110-meter hurdles (sixth) while finishing in the top 10 of the 400-meter hurdles (ninth).
Kafer helped anchor the 16th place 4-by-100-meter relay squad along with Morton while he finished 16th in the 200-meter dash.
A sweet, delicious taste of redemption fueled Kafer’s big morning last week.
The junior’s previous foray into the Drake Stadium long jump pit was anything but memorable. A scratch on his first attempt Thursday, May 16 conjured up flashbacks to a disappointing Drake Relays in which the junior scratched on all three attempts, sending him tumbling out of the competition. This time around, Kafer knew how to handle himself. He relaxed, zeroed in on his footwork and produced a string of his best jumps of his career, at one point vaulting himself into the outright lead with a leap of 22-06.5. Kafer was only knocked down to second following Drake Relays champion Parker Kiewlet’s final jump, which measured in at 22-10.75.
Kafer’s final mark was the fourth longest leap across all classes at the state meet, a fitting statement to a season which saw the multi-sport athlete break the Greene County school record on several different occasions.
His success last week can be accredited a new-found ability to shake off nerves, while handling adjustments on the fly.
“I told him we just need to get one good jump in,” Greene County head coach Chad Morton said. “We moved his steps back (earlier this year) and he’s been struggling ever since he jumped 22 feet the first time. Once he qualified for the finals, I knew he’d medal. That’s a lot better than he’d done the year before. So to me, it let him breathe a bit easier.
But, really, I didn’t see any panic in him at all.”
Kafer’s silver medal is the highest state honor by a Greene County male athlete since 2014, when Roman Phillips finished third in the 100-meter dash and fourth in the 200-meter.
Greene County scored 17 points as a team, finishing just five points from cracking the top 10. Northeast finished 10th with 22 points.
Dike-New Hartford won the state team title with 60 points, out-pacing Williamsburg, who scored 51 points. South Central Calhoun aided by several state titles, finished third (47) while Bellevue (45) and Treynor (33) rounded out the top five.
Morton overcame his fair share of adversity in the high jump May 17 as well, as a wet and soggy infield made the 2A competition a challenge for even the most experienced jumpers. It was no easy take to secure a bronze medal, as the junior took three tries to clear both 6-01 and 6-03. For a jumper who had cleared 6-08 earlier this spring, setting the school record, struggling to clear even the lowest heights threw Morton off his game. Toss in a slippery track which caused him to tumble into the bar on one of his early attempts and Morton looked destined to bow out of the competition much earlier than expected.
But just like his fellow classmate a day earlier, Morton reassessed the competition, took a deep breath and leaned on the experience of his most trusted family member, head coach and dad, Chad Morton.
“That was the most scared I’ve ever seen him. He was really concerned about not only when he slipped, but knowing all the pressure that was on him,” the elder Morton said. “I just looked into his eyes and tried to give him confidence. I told him that he’d jumped higher than this with just four steps. Make an adjustment and you can do it.”
The calm and collected words of his father seemed to jolt Carter back to life, as he cleared 6-04 on his final attempt, securing a top three spot before bowing out at 6-06. Drake Relays champion Grant Brouwer of Sibley-Ocheyedan captured the state title by clearing 6-06 while Braeden Hoyer of Northeast, the 2019 Drake Relays runner-up, snagged another silver medal by clearing 6-06 on his third attempt. Those two seniors helped push Morton’s rise throughout the spring. The junior made quite the significant leap this year, besting last spring’s top jump by six inches (6-08). The competition took notice early, which helped fuel Morton along.
“The great thing about track is it gives you some time to get to know some pretty high level athletes,” coach Morton said. “Both those kids told him how he’s going to rip it up next year. For him to be competing at state and to hear upperclassmen talk to him, it gives him confidence. It’s huge for his self esteem.
I think him being able to know how much growth he made will take him into next year on a high note.”
Morton finished seventh in the 110-meter hurdle prelims with a time of 15.55 but ran fastest enough to finish sixth overall, clearing 15.8 in Saturday’s finals. Monticello’s Avery Martensen secured the state title with a winning time of 15.07, scooting past Dike-New Hartford’s Seth Eden (15.13) and South Central Calhoun’s Josh Van Hulzen (15.14). Carter Morton also secured ninth overall in the 400-meter hurdles, just missing out on the medal stand with a time of 57.06.
Louisa-Muscatine’s Chase Kruse was eighth with a time of 57.03.
Okoboji’s Ethan Albright captured the 400-meter hurdle state title with a lightening quick time of 54.52, well ahead of Dike-New Hartford’s Grant Bixby (55.94).
Greene County junior Tyler Teeples, who opened up the 4-by-100-meter relay, finished 15th in the boys’ 100-meter with a time of 11.62, which was seventh in his preliminary heat. The 4-by-100-meter relay squad of Teeples, Riley, Morton and Kafer finished 16th with a time of 45.11. Roland-Story set the cut-off for the finals with the eighth-best time at 44.55. Williamsburg won the eventual state title with a time of 43.24, blowing past Bellevue in the finals by a full second (43.34).
Greene County junior Tyler Miller had a rough go of things in the discus, scratching on all three of his attempts to fall out of the competition while he finished 18th in the shot put, securing a top throw of 47-00.5 after scratching on his first two attempts. University of Iowa football commit and Drake Relays champion Noah Fenske of New Hampton captured the 2A state title with a top throw of 60-00.25. Not a single one of the six state qualifiers were seniors this spring, which bodes well for Greene County during the 2020 campaign.
Coach Morton believes another off-season of strength and speed training will only catapult the Rams into the next level.
“I”m really happy with our year and our kid’s performances,” the coach said. “It’s fun to reflect and look back. I’m still not off my high from the district championship. It all goes so quick, and I just try to enjoy it.”