By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – After three days of grey skies the Solon girls got their moment in the sun on Saturday.
After operating in damp and dreary conditions for most of the state track and field meet the sun made a brief appearance Saturday at an opportune time for the Spartans’ 4×400 team.
Solon blazed to a school-record time of 3:58.62 on its way to a runner-up finish at a briefly sun-splashed Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
“It was kind of like a sign,” Solon sophomore Erin Kerkhoff said. “Just as we were starting to run the sun came out.”
Solon took advantage of the brief break in the weather to break the four-minute mark for the first time this season.
The foursome of Kerkhoff, fellow sophomore Abby Smith and Taylor Ryan and freshman Cayley Annis already owned the school record with a 4:01.87 at Drake but lowered that time by more than three seconds Saturday.
“After we ran 4:01 and surprised ourselves we have been pushing to cross that line,” Ryan said. “Today was the perfect time to peak.”
The foursome showed it could be special early in the season setting the school record with a 4:03.05 back on April 13.
In the Drake Relays prelims Solon dropped more than a second off that time with a 4:01.87.
Since the performance at Drake the goal became to break the 4-minute mark.
The Spartans reached that goal on Saturday with a little assist from mother nature.
“Since we came here to Drake and we got the 4:01 our next goal was to get under that and we hadn’t had very nice weather and when we got the nice weather then we got under that,” Kerkhoff said. “It’s awesome.”
Solon squeaked into the state finals with the seventh best time from prelims after clocking a 4:04.3 on Friday evening.
No team went under four minutes in the 3A prelims but Solon knew it was a possibility with the adrenaline of the state finals.
Decorah entered with the top qualifying time and won with a time of 3:56.09 and Dubuque Wahlert finished third in 3:59.31.
“I was expecting it to be this quick and I knew that yesterday wasn’t our best,” Abby Smith said. “I knew coming into today that we were really ready to push and do whatever it took to do this.”
Ryan got Solon off to a good start and Annis and Smith followed with strong legs to set up Kerkhoff on the anchor.
The sophomore was coming off a career-best 400-meter split of 58.01 in the sprint medley on Saturday morning and also finished sixth in the 400 on Thursday.
“It definitely motivated me running the sprint medley because that was best time ever on a split,” Kerkhoff said. “Going into this I had some hours to recover and I was ready to go.”
Kerkhoff held off Dubuque Wahlert freshman Molly McDonald over the final 100 meters to give the Spartans the runner-up spot.
“I saw the Dubuque Wahlert and I thought I had a little more left,” Kerkhoff said. “I was just doing everything I could to get across the finish line.”
With all four runners returning Solon hopes to build on its performance and drop its school record in the future.
“Today we came in and we knew what we had to do and we really did it,” Annis said. “I’m so excited to be able to run with these girls.”