Girls’ state track: Senior duo places top 15, carries Greene County at state
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES - Greene County’s veteran leaders felt right at home last week, helping power six events in a triumphant return to the state track and field meet.
Both seniors Brooklynn Olson and Bri Osterson secured top 15 placements in their final appearance in Des Moines, guiding a young program onto the bright stage.
Olson finished 13th in the discus with a top throw of 115-02 while she also secured 15th in the shot put with a toss of 35-01.75. Olson wraps up her career with multiple top 15 performances at state.
Central Springs’ Abigayle Angell won the discus title with a top throw of 133-10 while Ridge View’s Katie Pickhinke finished runner-up (130-10) followed by North Fayette Valley’s Abby Boehm (128-11) in third.
Waukon’s Annika Headington secured the shot put state championship with a throw of 42-06 while Williamsburg’s Lauren Pope snagged the silver medal at 40-05.5. The shot put was conducted amidst a steady rain Thursday while standing water impacted the throwing circle. Despite that,
Olson performed fairly well, securing yet another high finish to cap off her career.
Osterson was instrumental in several events throughout the weekend as well, finishing 12th in the long jump with a top leap of 16-01.75, her second top 15 finish of her career.
Hudson’s Kylee Sallee edged out the state title with a winning leap of 17-11.75, just a hair in front of Southeast Valley’s Kiersten Fisher, who snagged the silver medal with a leap of 17-10.25. West Liberty’s Macy Daufeldt (17-06.5), New Hampton’s Carlee Rochford (17-02.75) and Estherville-Lincoln Central’s Jasey Anderson (17-01.25) rounded out the top five.
Osterson battled a knee injury for much of the spring, which hampered her jumps more often than not. Greene County head coach Derek Merk feels her performance was pretty solid, a culmination of growth with all things considered.
“She slowly built back up to jumping 16 feet by the end of the season, so what she jumped at state was consistent with where she had been the couple weeks leading up to state,” the coach said.
The lasting mark of Olson and Osterson will be felt for some time. The pairing helped transition a young track and field program when Merk first began his time in Jefferson. The girls made several state meet and Drake Relays appearances together, carving out a legacy that should shine well into the further, Merk said.
“They help establish and carry on our program norms and expectations,” the coach said. “They have been part of a program where the expectation is the season concludes after the state meet. They set the tone at practice and during the off-season of doing what it takes to make that happen. Their leadership has been invaluable.
Merk knows their impact will resonate with many of the younger girls on the Ram track and field squad.
“To see where (Brooklynn and Bri) started as freshmen to how far they have come in terms of leading their teammates is pretty special,” the coach said. “I know we already have a handful of younger girls who will fill the shoes of these important seniors and keep carrying on the traditions of the program.”
Osterson also provided a solid leg in a handful of relays.
The Rams placed 23rd in the 4-by-200-meter relay, anchored by Olivia Shannon, Makala Kafer, Osterson and Natalie Heupel, producing a time of 1:56.52, which was hampered by a poor baton exchange on the final leg.
Dike-New Hartford won the event championship with a time of 1:44.21.
Relay events were a powerful lightening rod for Greene County, as the Rams’ quartet of Shannon, Osterson, Kafer and Natalie Heupel also placed 24th in the 4-by-100-meter with a time of 53 seconds while the grouping of Annie Twillie, Natalie Heupel, Shannon and Katrina Heupel finished 24th with a time of 1:59.02 in Saturday’s sprint medley relay finals.
Merk was thankful his athletes had a chance to shine in front of a large crowd once again at Drake Stadium. Last week’s state track and field championships were the first such event in two years, allowing the Rams to perform in front of a packed house.
“Overall, we were pleased with how the weekend went,” the coach said. “The kids had fun and did the best they could. Our sprint medley relay ran our second best time of the season. It was nice that Annie Twillie was able to compete at the state meet her senior year. She has worked so hard to get to the point she is at. I was very happy for her.”
With a strong core returning next year, including the Heupel sisters, and Shannon now each with state meet experience, Merk expects his athletes to produce yet again when track season rolls around.
“The experience was extremely valuable,” the coach said. “The younger girls were able to experience and be a part of what we work for all season. I think once an athlete has that first experience running, throwing or jumping at the state meet, it is something that you can’t get out of your system and it becomes a goal (and an) expectation that you do what it takes to get there the next year.”
Mid-Prairie won the Class 2A team championship with 61 points while Northeast (Goose Lake) finished runner-up with 49 points, edging past bronze-medalist Osage (45).