Championship Mettle: Hoyle captures P-C’s first girls’ track and field title with 1A discus win
DES MOINES – The pressure lingered, tangled inside the suffocating humidity.
Disappointment threatened to derail a monumental spring. Danielle Hoyle wouldn’t allow it. Not now. Not when transcendent history was within reach.
The Paton-Churdan senior calmly walked into the discus circle May 21, steps outside of iconic Drake Stadium, letting her tongue hang from her mouth ever-so-lightly.
As the Rockets’ lone state qualifier and the school’s best hope for a title in several years, Hoyle felt the intensity creep as she prepared for her final attempt, managing to block it from reaching further.
She couldn’t settle for merely a good throw (the senior was in fourth place at the time with one throw remaining), she required greatness. The state title favorite was hampered by back-to-back scratch attempts, having only produced a throw beyond 110 feet (121-09 on her third throw of the second flight).
All indications pointed toward an OK, but certainly underwhelming appearance, sitting in fourth place.
Pushing away any remaining anxieties, Hoyle zeroed in on the final throw of her short yet illustrious career. P-C’s record-holder fluently began her routine, swaying twice before spinning and launching a massive throw into the air.
As the disc came crashing to the ground, a distance of 130-11 flashed on the board, giving Hoyle the outright lead and an improvement of nearly 10 feet, rocketing up the leaderboard.
With just one competitor left, Hoyle knew her best throw of the day assured her nothing worse than a silver medal. Gold was certainly within her grasp. As the final throw came and went, falling well short of the required mark, emotions overtook the Rocket veteran.
She had become Paton-Churdan’s first-ever girls’ track and field champion, an incredible punctuation to a breath-taking spring.
Tears began bubbling to the surface as a massive smile spread across Hoyle’s face.
“It’s just fantastic,” Hoyle said moments after receiving her gold medal. “This is my first year out for high school track. And it’s just more than I could have ever hoped for. I was so happy to just be here.
But to win has been, It’s just been awesome.”
A crippling adjustment to an unfamiliar disc baffled Hoyle for much of the afternoon in Des Moines. The struggles put her in a bit of a hole.
She’d spent all of spring, her first year ever competing in the discus, tossing an indoor, rubber disc, one with more thickness and easier to grip. The metal disc used in state competitions was smaller and harder to hold on to. It certainly threw Hoyle for a loop when she first began competition last week.
Her initial warm-up throw toppled end-over-end, well under her normal mark. Hoyle’s first attempt during actual competition didn’t fare much better, sailing just 103 feet, painstakingly short of her school-record toss of 133-07, set a week earlier at the Madrid state qualifying meet. Her second was a vast improvement, firmly placing her in the finals at 121-09 though her third toss of flight two regressed back to her earlier struggles at 108-08.
The growing pains of a new disc required Hoyle to make a change, and quick. With just eight competitors left and three throws remaining, consistency was key.
The state championship was slipping from her grasp along with the tricky disc. Unfortunately, as she watched her peers toss out better throws, Hoyle’ troubles continued. She’d scratch on the opening two attempts of the finals, leaving herself with the ultimate do-or-die opportunity.
With one last throw to determine a career. It was time to shine or limp home without a prestigious medal.
“I needed to get it all together,” Hoyle said. “And even though I hadn’t been doing well, just really focus on that final throw.”
Hoyle momentarily turned to P-C track and field coach Pat Kruse for advice. He knew the hopes and dreams of an entire school district were riding on the broad shoulders of his most successful athlete. Kruse encouraged Hoyle to relax, and uncork a throw for the ages.
“(I told her) to let it rip,” Kruse said. “Breathe. She’s got all the capabilities in the world, and I just told her, don’t be afraid to be great.”
South Winneshiek’s Emmaleigh Ohrt finished runner-up with a top throw of 126-01, and held the outright lead for most of the finals. Nashua-Plainfield’s Breanna Hackman possessed a slight edge in the third spot at 123 flat.
If Hoyle could manage to dart a little past her average, she’d become a champion, and that’s what she did, much to the delight of her supporters.
A throng of family members and classmates greatly out-numbered many of Hoyle’s fellow competitors, providing that extra boost she sorely lacked.
“It means a lot to me,” Hoyle said choking back tears. “I’m glad my family and friends could all come out.”
Hoyle’s title is not only a bright light for a one of the smallest school districts in the state, but it also is a beacon of light for a girls track and field program starving for success. While several of Greene County’s other schools possess a number of state champion women, P-C was left behind, seeming as if they’d never reach the top. Hoyle cemented herself in Rocket lore with a fifth place finish in the Class 1A shot put with a top throw of 38-07 May 20, but her state championship changes the course of history, providing a bump in confidence for future generations.
“I think it’s really important because this might inspire more girls to go out for sports,” she said. “Historically, we have smaller teams. If people know ‘Okay, like she did it, that means I can do it, too,’ I think more people will maybe go off for sports.”