State Track and Field: More champions crowned at state

DES MOINES — Less than 50 miles separate two of the best female high school throwers in the state of Iowa.

Now, the same can be said for two of the state's best male high school high jumpers.

Just 24 hours after Eli Zillman broke his own Fairfield school record by clearing six feet and nine inches to win the Class 3A boys high jump title on the opening day of the Iowa High School State Track and Field championships, Albia junior Ryan Little matched the feat in the 2A competition. Like Zillman, Little cleared 6-9 to break his own school record ultimately edging Camanche junior Tyson Seeser for the crown.

"I'll be honest. I don't know if it gets any better than this," Little said. "With the coaches and everyone doing so well on our team, all of our friends and family being here, this is the best thing I've ever had."

Like Zillman, Little took his turn at breaking a state meet record by clearing the bar set seven feet off the ground with a state championship already secured. Like Zillman, Little couldn't quite meet the milestone height hitting the bar on his one and only attempt.

"I'm glad I got to mess with seven foot today," Little said. "I think I'll be ready for it the next time I see it."

Little put together one of his most consistent days on Friday in his third trip to the state track and field meet, clearing each of his first five attempts at five different heights. The fifth of those jumps, the first attempt at 6-9, just stayed upright as Little narrowly clipped the bar on his final successful leap of the day.

"I don't know how that bar stayed on there. It must have been glued on," Little said. "I could not have been more ready. I just executed and did what I needed to do. I was in the mindset that I've been here before, so I wasn't that nervous. It's a little more relaxing being up here now. I just had to do my thing."

Little became the fourth area athlete to win a state title in a field event over the first two days of competition at Drake Stadium. While Zillman and Little were setting new standards for success in the boys high jump, a pair of sophomores were busy collecting two of the four female throwing titles up for grabs on Thursday at the state meet.

Delilah Subsin broke her own school record, and state-leading mark, with her second throw during the 4A girls discus. After reaching 124 feet and nine inches with her first throw, Subsin unleashed a throw that traveled an inch over 141 feet to reach a distance that would hold up as the state championship-winning throw becoming the first Ottumwa High School female track and field athlete to win a throwing event at state.

"I couldn't believe it when I saw it," Subsin said. "When I saw 141-1 come up on the board, I honestly thought that was for someone else's throw. When I found out that was mine, my jaw dropped."

Subsin's throw overtook Pleasant Valley junior Gabriella Ragins, who had set a personal record with her first throw of the competition reaching 140-2. Ragins teammate, Reese Goodlet, came the closest to challenging Subsin in the final round reaching 138-11 with her second-to-last throw.

"I thought I maybe reached 130 or 135 feet with my best throw. When I saw 141-1 come up, I went 'holy moly!' I felt good about my chances to hold on, but the two Pleasant Valley girls are also really good. I was nervous, but you just have to wash it away. In the end, you're the only one in the ring and you just have to focus on doing what it takes to win."

Subsin joins Megan Coulter, Carollin Mellin, Alli and Grace Bookin-Nosbisch as the only members of the Ottumwa girls track and field team to win a state championship. The sophomore added a bronze medal on Friday finishing third in the 4A girls shot put with a throw of 40 feet and 7.25 inches.

"There is no better way to end a season than to go out being the best at something," Ottumwa head girls track and field coach Rick Tanner said. "We were constant rebuilding mode with our team this season, but it's a nice feeling to know that no matter what meet we're competing at, we know there are some constant things that are going to happen. We're always going to score points in both the shot put and discus as long as Delilah is throwing."

Pekin know how that feels. Anna Hadley has proven to be a formidable opponent in the field for any school that goes up against the Panthers at any meet.

The defending 1A state discus champion added a 1A shot put title to her resume on Thursday. After struggling to get her footwork right in the event all season, Hadley produced her best throw at the perfect time reaching 39 feet and an key two inches ultimately edging Fort Dodge St. Edmond junior Mariah Myers who could only only hit the 39-foot line on her fourth throw before falling short of the line on her final throw, setting off an immediate celebration right behind the shot put ring among Hadley's family and friends.

"I had the best circle I've had all year. I think that's why I threw so far," Hadley said. "My grandparents are my biggest cheerleaders. I told them I'd win this title for them and I did it."

Despite finishing second on Friday in the 1A girls discus to Iowa Valley junior Lydia Kriegel with a throw of 132-5, less than three feet shy of a second straight state title, Hadley's shot put triumph extended a streak of three straight years for the Pekin girls to win a state title in at least one event. Audrey Fariss, who was part of starting that run two years ago in the 4x800 relay, closed out her fourth consecutive medal-winning performance in the race on Thursday leading off a seventh-place run for the Panthers with Alex Parsons, Krysta Sheetz and Chloe Glossing joining Fariss in producing a time of 9:55 flat that was faster than the time of 9:55.02 that won the 1A state 4x800 title for Pekin two years earlier.

"This is a bittersweet moment for me. As much as it hurts sometimes, I love to run the 4x800," Fariss said. "This relay is a family. It always is. I'm so thankful for that. I always will be. We started from scratch after winning that 4x800 two years ago. To come back up here with two brand new girls, including one that had never run track before this year, and produce a time that would have been good enough to win a state title is pretty incredible."

Two more schools separated by less than 30 miles of Highway 63 concrete will step on the blue oval on Saturday to battle for one of the last state track and field championships. Reigning 2A girls 4x400 champion Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont qualified for the finals on Friday winning the second of three qualifying heats in 4:01.35.

That time was second-fastest in qualifying. Pella Christian, the top seed over EBF entering the state meet, setting a state record with a winning time in the opening qualifying heat of 3:55.22.

"We've run against Pella Christian several times this year. They're very tough and they're great people," EBF junior Kate Shafer said. "We haven't been able to beat them yet. Hopefully, we're saving that for Saturday. We're going to need to push ourselves to a limit we've never go to before. That's what it's going to take to beat Pella Christian."

Both Molly and Kate Shafer earned medals on Friday with third-place finishes for the Rockets. Kate Shafer produced her best individual finish in a state event with a run of 1:05.1 in the 2A girls 400-meter hurdles while Molly Shafer finished in a five-way tie for third in the 2A girls high jump clearing 5-2.

"I know I can reach that mark that wins the state championship," Molly Shafer said after finishing among the top three in the state in the 2A girls long jump for the third straight year. "It's just a little frustrating because I know I can do it. It just hasn't quite been my day each time I've competed here, but I feel confident I can still make it happen.

"I've run a lot more this year. All the training I've put in put me in the shape I needed to be in to finish this high," Kate Shafer added. "The competition is great here at state. It puts a real emphasis to be able to win a championship when you have to perform at that high a level."