Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – It's been five years since West High won a state title in boys track and field.
The way Trojans felt walking out of Drake Stadium in Des Moines two seasons ago that Class 4A title in 2012 might as well have been 500 years ago.
Just two years removed from cruising to the 2012 title by more than 25 points West High scored a meager five points at the 2015 state meet, good for 29th place.
“That was not a really a good year at all for our team,” West High senior Ali Ali said of 2015.
Fast forward two years to this season and West High is back in the title hunt.
In two seasons under head coach T.J. Craig the Trojans have quickly made the transition from state meet afterthought to a title contender.
West High enters the Class 4A state meet that begins Thursday at 9 a.m. at Drake Stadium expecting to battle Waukee for the team title.
Two seasons ago that statement seemed close to impossible.
“I like the progression we’ve made, two years ago we scored five points so to even be in the conversation of a title hunt is beyond words,” Craig said. “It’s an awesome opportunity.”
Friday will be 10 years to the day since West High won its first state title.
The 4A title in 2007 started a seven-year string that saw West High finish first or second at state five times.
That string ended with a fifth-place finish in 2014 and was followed by the five-point showing in 2015 and an 18th place finish last season.
West High returns to Drake Stadium this season ready to return to its spot as an annual player in the 4A title race.
“We’ve had a couple of people come back and say that it’s the same vibe that they had the year they did really well at West High,” senior Derek Nugent said. “It’s really kind of getting back to West High’s dominance where we step off the bus and teams are like ‘oh West High is here’. It’s nice finally having that presence back.”
West High raised eyebrows with four consecutive invitational wins to open the season.
The past two weeks West High has won a Mississippi Valley Conference divisional title and a divisional title.
Suddenly as far away as a state title felt to the Trojans in 2015 the disappointment of two seasons ago is an equally distant memory for West High this season.
“Two short years the whole thing has switched around,” Ali said. “We are looking at it and we can actually win state.”
West High has what it takes to be a title contender.
The Trojans are deep, qualifying in 16 events with double qualifiers in six individual events.
West High qualified six of seven relay teams for state and half of those teams enter with top-five qualifying times.
“It’s really important because it just shows how many levels we can score points at,” Nugent said of the balance. “Even if we are not winning we can still get fourth and sixth and make up for that.”
The Trojans are talented with top-two qualifying times in five events.
Sophomore Kolby Greiner has the top qualifying time in the 3,200, Nugent the best time from districts in the 800 and the Trojans’ 4×400 relay team enters top seeded.
Perhaps most importantly, they are confident.
“It’s not like we need some super fantastic thing to happen we just need to go down there and compete like we’ve been competing all year with the guys that we’ve got,” Craig said. “We are just going to do our best and see shot it shakes out.”
The West High girls program finds itself in a similar situation this week.
Mike Parker’s Women of Troy have long been the gold standard for Class 4A track and field programs.
West High won three of four titles from 2007 to 2010 but endured its own time away from the top spot and hasn’t left Des Moines with a team trophy since 2011.
The Women of Troy are capable of changing that this season.
Led by standouts Valerie Welch and Bailey Nock, West High enters as one of the top challengers to defending 4A champ Waukee.
“I remember meeting with them and telling them this is what you can do, I’m not telling you that to motivate you, I’m telling you that cause it’s the facts and they believed it,” Parker said. “Sometimes as coaches we say all these things to inspire them to get them to do things but I told them this is what you can do, you are going to be able to contend for a state title, I’m not saying that to motivate you, I’m say it because it’s the facts and they believed.”
West High was the last school to win the 4A boys and girls title in the same season in 2007.
Waukee has won four girls titles and a pair of boys titles in the 10 years since but never in the same season.
The Warriors are capable of pulling off that feat this week but so is West High.
“I’m excited, it’s awesome on the guys side too,” Parker said. “This is the 10 year anniversary of when we both won the state title in 2007 and I think both teams are headed to Des Moines and expecting some great things.”