By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Erin Kerkhoff expected to have success running the 400 meters this season.
The Solon sophomore was a state placer in the event last season as a freshman and planned on improving this spring.
The success Kerkhoff envisioned as a 400 runner has come into focus this season it’s how Kerkhoff is achieving that success that has come as a surprise.
Instead of exceeding her expectations in the opening 400 as a sophomore, Kerkhoff is anchoring the fastest 4×400 relay team in school history.
“I didn’t expect us to have this success as a relay team, no,” Kerkhoff said. “The fact that we are this successful as a really teams makes it even better. I am really excited for this team.”
It’s easy to see why Kerhoff has been a little surprised by the relay success.
Solon wasn’t a state qualifier in the event last season as the Spartans focused their attention elsewhere.
As this season began head coach Brent Sands could see he had a surplus of talented runners in the 400 meter area.
A good problem for a coach to have.
“I’ve been really impressed with all of them and their ability,” Sands said. “The depth that it provides us when it comes to team situations like conference meet that is really going to help out some of the stuff we are trying to do.”
The first question was who would run the 4×400 relay.
Just a few meets into the season that question was answered.
Kerkhoff and fellow sophomores Abby Smith and Taylor Ryan joined freshman Cayley Annis in running a school-record 4:03.05 on April 13.
“A lot of times those records get set when you are down at Drake or state and running on that track against good competition,” Sands said. “Being able to do that early created a little more excitement about what the opportunities might be.”
The school-record performance created another question for the Spartan 4×400 team made up of all underclassmen.
Just how good can this group be?
“It’s still the beginning of the season and we have so much potential,” Annis said. “I think we can push it a lot lower.”
Just a sophomore, Kerkhoff is the veteran of the group and the anchor.
In her mind the quartet has just scratched the surface.
“I’m just really excited for the potential that is on this team,” Kerkhoff said. “Especially because we have a freshman and three sophomores just to see where we can go in the future.”
The 4:03.05 was the sixth fastest time in the state entering the Drake Relays.
Solon lowered that mark by nearly two seconds in the 4×400 prelims on Friday evening at Drake Stadium, breaking its own school-record with a 4:01.87.
The Spartans will try to lower that time again in the Drake Relays finals on Saturday afternoon.
“I guess maybe we will find out a little bit what type of competitors we are and how we respond to that environment and compete with people,” Sands said. “If they all put it together I feel good about going underneath four minutes but we will see.”