Prep track: Another banner performance by Pekin

May 14—SIGOURNEY — For each of the past two seasons, the Pekin track and field season has ended with a state championship-winning performance.

Audrey Fariss, Lauren Derscheid, Makenzie Dahlstrom and Sarah Eubanks experienced the thrill of victory on the blue oval at Drake Stadium two years ago. The Panther teammates edged South Winnesheik on the opening day of the Iowa High School State Track and Field meet, winning the Class 1A girls 4x800 relay by less than a second over South Winnesheik in 9:55.02.

Last spring, another Pekin state champion emerged. Anna Hadley stunned almost everyone, including herself, in claiming the 1A girls discus title. With a throw of 134 feet and 10 inches, Hadley bested a field that included current Iowa State women's basketball standout Audi Crooks in bringing home the championship in her freshman season.

Both Fariss and Hadley return to the scene of those two state triumphs this week. They'll be joined by plenty of talented teammates as the Pekin girls track team strides into the 1A portion of the 2024 Iowa High School State Track and Field championships with 14 athletes preparing for seven different events after producing a regional-championship winning performance last week in Sigourney.

The Panthers pulled away from Danville to claim the team title at the 1A state qualifying meet just up the road in Keokuk County on the home track of the Savages, scoring 103 points with wins in four different events. Pekin also ran well enough to qualify on time in the shuttle hurdle, distance medley and 4x400 relays.

"We might not have the most talent, but getting those top-three or top-four finishes really pays off," Pekin head track and field coach Davis Eidahl said. "I thought maybe we'd finish third or fourth, but we kept scoring points and some of the other girls stepped up. It's good for the younger girls to run in those relays."

Those younger athletes include multiple first-time state qualifiers. Krysta Sheetz will compete for the first time at state in three different races, including a 4x800 team that took the title in Sigourney in a time of 10:10, qualifying with the sixth-fastest time with Fariss serving in the role of lead-off runner two years after helping the Panthers claim the state title in the same race.

"No matter where we're ranked going into a race, we're always going to have that pressure on us," Fariss said. "The 4x800 is one of the most notable relays in the history of Pekin track. I felt confident going into the state qualifying meet. We haven't run our best team yet. I really wanted to get the team off to a good start and give the rest of the girls some space to work with."

Parsons and Sheetz protected Pekin's lead at Sigourney before Chloe Glosser brought home the team's first state track and field ticket pulling away from North Mahaska by over 53 seconds. Glosser has a busy state track meet in front of her, qualifying in four different events including a winning run of 5:08.15 on Thursday in the state-qualifying 1,500-meter run.

"It's been a lot more nerve-racking getting ready to qualify for state, but I always have my teammates there to calm me down," Glosser said. "They're good at reminding me this is supposed to be fun. Running with them, I always have a great time."

Hadley, meanwhile, easily clinched a return to compete in both the 1A girls discus and shot put despite soggy conditions that again created a physical hurdle for the reigning state champion thrower. After winning the shot put by muscling a throw of 37 feet and 4.75 inches, beating Danville senior Taegan Frazier by over three feet, Hadley launched her final discus throw in the rain 122 feet to finish over 30 feet ahead of Columbus Junction freshman Isabella Forbes.

"I knew coming into the meet that conditions were not going to be good. They were alright in the shot put, but I just couldn't get my feet where they were supposed to be, so I just relied on my trusty power to get that winning throw out there," Hadley said. "I was kind of concerned about the discus going into that last throw. I had scratched in every throw except one that went 108 feet. I was not happy with that. I haven't finished a meet with that distance since middle school. If I wanted to get out of the first flight at state, I knew I needed to launch something a lot further. That last one really relived a lot of nerves."

The Pekin boys will compete in five different events at state with 10 different athletes preparing for the events. Brady McWhirter and JaeDon Wolver each qualified in three events with McWhirter winning state-qualifying titles in both the boys 1,600 meters (4:37.54) and 3,200 meters (10:14) all while competing slightly under the weather.

"I've been sick all week and I kind of came into the (state qualifying) meet kind of doubting myself," McWhirter said. "With the way I felt, coming down the final lap to win the 1,600 after already winning the 3,200 was very emotional. It just felt so good to perform and come home under 4:40 feeling they way I felt."

McWhirter and Wolver joined Will Adam and Nolan Glick in closing out the night for the Pekin boys qualifying for state in the 4x400 relay, clinching a third-place finish for the Panthers in the state qualifier with 81.5 team points. Wolver also advanced to run at state in the boys 400-meter hurdles, an event that will be represented in the girls race by Sigourney junior Reagan Clarahan after battling North Mahaska freshman Natalya Linder to the finish line on Thursday advancing the state with a time of 1:09.47.

"That's the fastest I've ever ran. I was really hoping for the win, but I can't be disappointed with making it to state," Clarahan said. "It felt really good. I knew Natalya was going to push me. I just stumbled on one hurdle late that probably cost me the win, so I know I'm capable of running even faster. It's good to have someone in your conference that will push you to run even faster."

Clarahan will be joined in the state meet by Sigourney teammate McKinley Chittick, who qualified for the girls 1A high jump clearing 4-10. The Sigourney girls finished fifth in their home state qualifier with 57 points while the Sigourney boys finished seventh with 52 points in the meet.