By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The postseason in prep track and field begins on Thursday with conference meets across the area.
By the time conference meets wrap up on Thursday less than two weeks remain before the opening day of the state track and field meet on May 18 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
Before turning attention to districts and eventually the state meet here are four things to watch at area boys conference meets on Thursday.
Home Track Advantage
City High and West High both get the advantage of competing at home on Thursday as both schools host a Mississippi Valley Conference divisional meet.
West High hosts the Mississippi divisional at Trojan Field and has visions of returning to the top of the MVC for the first time since 2014.
“We set our sights on three really big goals and divisional is at the top of that list,” West High coach TJ Craig said. “I am big on the history of West High and for a long time West High was coming away from the divisional winning it and I think that is a really big goal.”
West High enters as the favorite after back-to-back fourth place finishes the past two seasons with Linn-Mar the top competition in the seven-team field.
The Trojans won four consecutive meets to open the season and have won five invitational titles.
“It’s not a real big meet but in our conference, it’s always competitive,” Craig said. “If you can come out of there winning that meet you have a really solid team.”
City High will host the Valley Divisional meet at Raffensperger Track and welcomes a field that features the top three teams from last year’s Class 4A state meet in defending champion Cedar Rapids Prairie, runner-up Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Led by distance ace Sam Schillinger Cedar Falls enters as the favorite having won divisional titles each of the last two seasons and three of the last four.
City High was fourth in 2015 and third at the divisional meet last year and hopes to continue that climb at home on Thursday.
Don’t Miss It
This is the time of year coaches prepare to put the finishes touches on their lineups.
As always there is no guarantee every participant competes but both the Mississippi and Valley divisional meets possess the potential to produce a pair of can’t miss events.
Three of the top seven 4×800 relay times in the state this season will be on display at City High.
Cedar Rapids Prairie and Cedar Falls have the fifth and sixth fastest times in the state this season while the City High foursome of Jim McMillan, Jimmy Momberg, JP Rethwisch and Daniel Brown have the seventh fastest time at 8:05.87.
Those three teams finished fourth (Prairie), fifth (City High) and eighth (Cedar Falls) at the Drake Relays last Saturday.
The 200-meter field at the Mississippi Divisional at West High could feature three of the top five runners in the state.
Waterloo West senior Tayshaun Cooper (21.99) ranks third, Dubuque Wahlert Alden Kuntz (22.11) is fourth and West High sophomore Gabe Caruthers has the fifth fastest time at 22.12.
The 3,200 at West High is just as loaded with three of the top seven fastest times in the state this season, two from West High runners.
Linn-Mar senior Ryan Murphy has the second-best time (9:11.4) while West High’s Kolby Greiner owns the fifth best time (9:19.75) and teammate Ali Ali has the seventh best time (9:20.9).
Regina coach Chris Murdock would like to be assembling his lineup for Thursday’s River Valley Conference meet at Bellevue to make a run at the team title.
Murdock knows that isn’t a realistic expectation against the always-loaded RVC field and he’s o.k. with that.
Instead, Murdock and the Regals will use Thursday as a way to work the wrinkles out of their lineup against some of the best teams in the state.
“We are really treating Thursday as a tune-up for next week,” Murdock said. “With the numbers we have this year putting together a winning lineup is really not in our cards and we are o.k. with that. We know what our strengths are and we know what our weaknesses are and we are going to use Thursday to play to our strengths.”
That doesn’t mean Regina won’t have athletes in the RVC title hunt.
Senior Jack Jensen has the sixth best 400 time in Class 2A and Ryan Bonthius enters with the sixth best 2A time in the 800, both tops among RVC competitors.
The Regals enter with the top qualifying time in both medley relays and senior Jared Brinkman has the top shot put and second best qualifying mark in the discus.
“We are going to see where we sit with a lot of the top schools in the state,” Murdock said. “Our conference year in and year out has the some of the best talent top to bottom.”
One for the Road?
Western Dubuque has never won a WAMAC boys title.
The Bobcats are set to join the MVC conference for 2018-2019 school year but are in position to grab some hardware before they leave.
Western Dubuque hosts the WAMAC meet on Thursday and enters as the favorite following a strong showing at the Drake Relays last week.
Vinton-Shellsburg won the team title last year and Mount Vernon should be in the mix led by thrower Tristan Wirfs as should Marion and its distance duo of Myles Bach and Jeremy Fopma.
Solon finished third last season and Clear Creek Amana was 14th a year ago.