Your Prep Sports
The high school track season has hit the home stretch.
A three-week postseason stretch begins with conference meets this week and ends at the state track and field meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on May 21.
There will be plenty to watch in the area over the next several weeks and it starts on Thursday with all seven Your Prep Sports area teams competing in conference meets.
Here is a quick breakdown of what to expect as area teams start the postseason.
MVC Mississippi Divisional
When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Western Dubuque High School
Teams: City High, Liberty High; Cedar Falls; Cedar Rapids Washington; Cedar Rapids Prairie; Linn-Mar; Dubuque Wahlert; Western Dubuque
Team title chase: Expect another crowded team chase in the Mississippi Division after the top four teams were separated by just eight points last season.
This year is shaping up as a three-team battle with City High, Liberty High and Cedar Rapids Prairie all fighting for the divisional title.
A year ago Prairie finished in a deadlock with Linn-Mar for the top spot and may be a slight favorite this season though Liberty High and City High both have the top-end talent and depth to battle for the top spot.
Athlete to watch: Over the next three weeks Liberty High senior Ashlyn Keeney will seek to put the finishing touches on what has already been a stellar prep career.
Among the top distance runners in the state Keeney enters with the top time among Mississippi Division competitors in both the 1,500 (4:43.31) and the 3,000 (10:12.09) and has the third fastest time in the 800 (2:15.06).
Event to watch: Four of the top six 400 times in the state this season have come from members of the Mississippi Division.
Cedar Rapids Prairie senior Gabby Cortez won the Drake Relays 400 last week and owns the fastest time in the state this spring at 55.52.
Western Dubuque senior Audrey Biermann ranks fourth in the state with a time of 56.42, Dubuque Wahlert sophomore Rylee Steffen is sixth at 57.05 and City High freshman Ani Wedemeyer has the eighth fastest time this season at 57.21.
Steffen, Biermann and Wedemeyer finished fifth, sixth and seventh respectively and were separated by just .16 at the Drake Relays last Friday.
Breakdown: City High was seventh at the Divisional meet last season but is due for a big turnaround this season.
Wedemeyer has provided a boost for the Little Hawks which have improved depth this season and have the top qualifying time in the shuttle hurdle and 4×400 relays.
Liberty High had its best divisional performance last season and should be a factor again behind Keeney and its field events.
Senior Darya Acas has the top qualifying mark in the discus and the Lightning have the top two high jumpers among divisional squads.
Cortez and Biermann are among the best in the state in their respective events.
MVC Valley Divisional
When: 4:30 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium in Waterloo
Teams: West High; Cedar Rapids Jefferson; Cedar Rapids Kennedy; Cedar Rapids Xavier; Dubuque Hempstead; Dubuque Senior; Waterloo West; Waterloo East
Team title chase: Dubuque Hempstead is the defending champion though last year’s runner-up Cedar Rapids Kennedy enters as the favorite with the top qualifying performance in seven events.
Don’t count out West High which was fourth at the divisional meet last season with 108.5 points.
The Trojans have five relays with top-three qualifying times, can score big points in the field events and have a couple of potential individual champs in the hurdle events in Ella Woods and Erinn Varga.
Athlete to watch: West High sophomore Erinn Varga is quickly becoming one of the top 400 hurdlers in the state.
Varga finished sixth at the Drake Relays in the 400 hurdles last Saturday and owns the sixth fastest time in the state in the event this season at 1:05.51.
The sophomore standout will have some serious competition in the 400 hurdles on Thursday in the form of Cedar Rapids Xavier sophomore Emma Arnold.
Arnold was 10th at Drake and sits just behind Varga on the lists of top times this season at 1:05.56.
Event to watch: While the 400 hurdles should be excellent the high hurdle showdown between West High senior Ella Woods and Cedar Rapids Kennedy junior Grace Braden may be even better.
Braden sits seventh in the state with a 15.2 while Woods has the ninth fastest time this season at 15.32.
Woods was faster in the Drake Relays prelims last week, clocking a 15.85 while Braden ran a 16.1 and the two should be close to even in a heads up meeting at the divisional meet.
Breakdown: The top three team contenders all have their own area of team expertise.
Kennedy has sprinters and hurdlers, Dubuque Hempstead has the distance advantage while West High has its hurdle duo, a strong throwing tandem and balance across the relays.
Dubuque Senior is a strong enough squad across the board to battle its way into the top three as well.
West High enters with the top time in the shuttle hurdle and has the second fastest time in both the 4×400 and distance medley relays.
WAMAC Conference Meet
When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Dyersville Beckman High School
Teams: Clear Creek Amana; Solon; Dyersville Beckman; Benton Community; Center Point-Urbana; Independence; Maquoketa; Marion; Mount Vernon; Vinton-Shellsburg; West Delaware; Williamsburg; South Tama
Team title chase: Solon is a heavy favorite to repeat and could easily surpass its winning margin of 77.5 points from a season ago.
The Spartans flexed their muscle at the Drake Relays last week showing why they are considered significant favorites to claim the 3A state title later this month.
Solon had four top-five relay finishes at the Drake Relays last week capped by a title in the 4×400 relay.
Last year’s runner-up Williamsburg will be among a group of teams locked in what should be a good battle for second place.
Clear Creek Amana which was fourth a year ago should be in that mix along with Mount Vernon.
Athlete to watch: The 2021 WAMAC track athlete of the year Solon senior Emma Bock will look to put an exclamation point on her prep career starting on Thursday.
Bock will no doubt be a big part of the relay success for the Spartans in the postseason but also has the top times in both the 400 and 800 among WAMAC competitors.
The senior has the fastest 400 time at 57.31 and the top 800 time at 2:14.33 and should make a run at four first-place finishes on Thursday.
Event to watch: The shuttle hurdle relay sets up as a showdown between Solon and Clear Creek Amana that could provide a preview of the finals of the 3A state meet.
The defending state champion in the event, Clear Creek Amana returned two members from that state title foursome that also won the WAMAC title a year ago.
Emma Mathis, Meghan Cullen, Mari Cetta, Silvana Kabolo combined to finish eighth at Drake last week and hold the third fastest time in 2A this season at 1:06.92.
Solon enters with a time of 1:06.82 which placed the Spartan foursome of Mia Stahle, Sophia Stahle, Calla Foster, Aly Stahle fifth at the Drake Relays and ranks second in Class 3A.
5th at Drake (1:06.82)
Breakdown: Solon is going to put on a show.
The Spartans have a combination of top-end talent with Bock and seniors Kaia Holtkamp and Makinley Levin and depth with the top qualifying mark in 12 events including all seven relays that few teams in any class can match.
Clear Creek Amana made a big jump to fourth a year ago and has continued its climb this season.
Now the Clippers will attempt to put together another strong conference meet behind hurdlers Mathis and Kabolo and jumpers Bliss Beck (high jump) and Emma Descourouez (long jump).
Clear Creek Amana also has five relays with top-five qualifying times.
River Valley Conference Meet
When: Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
Where: Dean Nelson Field in Monticello
Teams: Regina; West Branch; Anamosa; Bellevue; Camanche; Cascade; Durant; Mid-Prairie; Monticello; North Cedar; Northeast; Tipton; West Liberty; Wilton
Team title chase: New year, same story.
Three-time defending Class 2A state champion Mid-Prairie is loaded again and is a heavy favorite to continue its reign atop the conference.
Once again the top competition will come from Northeast which finished 45.5 points behind the Golden Hawks last season.
Athlete to watch: Regina senior Peyton Naeve was a member of the Regals shuttle hurdle relay team that reached the state finals last season and has excelled in the low hurdles this season.
Naeve enters with the fifth fastest qualifying time in the 400 hurdles after clocking a season-best time of 1:10.59 last week at Clear Creek Amana.
Event to watch: West Branch has a couple of athletes capable of posting big performances in the shot put.
Freshman Alyssa Pierce enters with the second best qualifying mark while junior Sadie Smith has the fifth best qualifying toss to give the Bears two of the top five competitors entering the event.
Allison Kenneavy of Camanche enters with the top mark at 36-7 but the next four competitors are separated by less than seven inches making for a wide-open chase.
Pierce and Smith should be right in that mix for medals and big team points.
Breakdown: With the duo of senior Mitzi Evans and sophomore Danielle Hostetler Mid-Prairie has the top qualifying time in every event from the 200 to the 3,000.
The Golden Hawks have plenty of other point scorers to put the team title away relatively early.
Northeast has its own standout in senior Ellie Rickertsen who is a heavy favorite in both hurdle events and will be in the 100 title hunt.
Tipton is perhaps the team with the best chance to push Northeast for second while Regina and West Branch will each seek to improve on their performances from last season.
West Branch has a top-five qualifying time in the 4×100 relay and with a solid day can improve on its 10th place team finish from a year ago.