DES MOINES — Things didn’t go quite as planned for the Creston boys and girls track teams here Thursday at the Coed State Track Meet, but the Panthers were still able to come away with three 11th-place finishes and one 13th-place finish.
Both the girls and the boys 4x800 relays came into the state meet ranked in the top four in the state, with both harboring hopes of the school’s first-ever state championship in a relay event.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the state championship hopes didn’t come through.
The Creston girls finished 11th with a time of 9:59.91, while the boys also finished 11th in 8:17.19.
Sophomore Maria Mostek opened up with a 2:26.84 split for the Panthers, followed by senior Emily Wignall at 2:32.56, freshman Taylor Briley at 2:35.34 and sophomore Natalie Mostek anchored with a 2:23.9.
“Natalie Mostek got her first chance on the blue oval and she didn’t exactly get it in a great spot, but she ran a great time,” head girls coach Clay Arnold said. “I was really happy with her, which gives me a lot of hope for tomorrow’s d-med.”
Arnold said his team was primed for a breakout performance on Thursday, as he felt they hadn’t come close to reaching their full potential when they broke the school record at the State Qualifying Meet.
“Potential wise, we had not peaked by any means,” he said. “We had specific goal times. There were a lot of different variables, but state is a whole different ballgame. A lot of track and field is mental. You’ve got to be extra ready to focus.”
The Panthers moved up from their 24th-place finish in the event a year ago.
The Creston boys 4x800 relay team of Bryce Briley, Travis Miller, Briar Evans and Jay Wolfe also fell short of its goals for the day, coming in 11th with a time of 8:17.19.
The Panthers entered with the fourth-fastest time in the state after running 8:11.16 at the State Qualifying Meet to break the school record.
“Obviously it wasn’t our fastest time of the year, but we gave it a really good effort,” Evans said. “You can’t always run your fastest every time, but we still gave it all we could. Today we ran an 8:17, which now we think of as really slow for us, but if we would have ran that a couple weeks ago, we would have been so amazed. It just shows how far we’ve come.”
The fact the Panthers had the confidence coming into the race thinking they could win was a sign of how much the team has improved, Miller said.
“We came in thinking we had a shot at winning this thing, and gave it our best shot at it, but just came up short,” Miller said. “It just shows how far we came to actually have a chance of thinking about winning a state championship.”
Making it to state two years in a row on the 4x800 relay team was a solid way for Miller, the only Panther senior competing in his final race Thursday, to end his career.
“I’ve just been proud to be with this team and cut off so many seconds and set the school record,” he said. “It’s a good way to go out. Even though we didn’t run our best time at state, it’s still a good way to go out on top.”
Wolfe capped off the night for the Panthers with a new personal best time in the 400 meter dash, placing 11th.
Wolfe, running in the second of three heats, ran 50.75 to finish fifth in his heat and 11th overall.
“I knew I was going to have to get out pretty quick,” he said. “I started in lane 8, so I wasn’t able to see anyone. I knew I was going to have to get out fast and try to bring it through.”
“Looking at it, he got off to a much better start,” head boys coach Pat Schlapia said. “He said he felt like he was flying coming off that. With that 50.75, you’ve got to be tickled to death, because that’s over a second faster than what he ran last week.”
Junior Brandon Phipps got things started for the Panthers with a 13th-place finish in the 3,200 meter run, clocking a time of 10:07.86.
After positioning himself in the chase pack at the 800-meter mark, Phipps said the pack began to pull away from him.
“About 900 meters in, I saw I was about 25 meters back from the front of the pack, and they started pulling away,” he said. “I started not feeling it as much and kind of drifted back.”
Phipps said he was just glad to have the opportunity to compete in the state meet after dealing with a calf injury for much of the season.
“I feel more blessed to have this opportunity,” he said. “Three weeks ago, I didn’t even think I’d be running here, so it’s good to get out on the blue track and get a good run in.”
Creston returns to the track today with Luke Neitzel in the long jump at 2 p.m., the Creston girls distance medley relay at 2:40 p.m., Evans in the 400 meter hurdles at 3:20 p.m., Brianna Maitlen in the long jump at 4:30 p.m. and the Creston boys 4x400 relay at 7:40 p.m.