Creston head boys track coach Pat Schlapia had plenty to celebrate at the team’s postseason awards banquet Sunday afternoon in the Creston High School commons.
The 2014 season included a state champion and Drake Relays runner-up in junior Jay Wolfe, three new school records, five boys earning state meet medals and that group of five boys placing 15th in the state as a team.
And, with just 18 boys on the roster, the Creston team finished in the top half of every meet this season with the exception of the Ballard meet, where athletes were limited to two events in the buildup to the Drake Relays.
“It was a special season for all of us,” Schlapia said. “We finished with 18 boys participating on the team. I tell you what, it was 18 special boys. Coach (Steve) Birchard and I were tickled to death to be involved with these 18 boys. It wasn’t a job to be working with these boys.”
Five senior boys were celebrated for what they’ve accomplished as part of the Creston track program.
Seniors were Trevor Luther, Evan Nielsen, Brandon Phipps, Maxx Walters and manager Jon Birchard.
“These boys here, as seniors, you guys have left your mark,” Schlapia said. “No matter where you go and what you end up doing, you guys are going to be a part of this. Coach and I will be telling stories about you guys. You’re part of this family.”
Phipps and Walters both ended their careers earning state meet medals, and both finish with their names on the school’s record board in two different events.
Phipps is a part of the 4x800 relay and 4x400 relay records, while Walters is part of the shuttle hurdle relay and 4x400 relay records.
The Panther broke school records this season in the 4x800 relay, the 4x400 relay and the 800 meters.
After the 4x800 relay record stood untouched for 35 years, it has now been broken each of the past two years.
Joining Phipps and Walters as part of the five-man state meet team were juniors Wolfe and Bryce Briley and sophomore Cooper McDermott. Wolfe was also named elite all-state by the Iowa Track Coaches Association in the 800 meters.
All five athletes earned state meet medals, as the Panthers finished 15th with 19 team points, ahead of all the other Hawkeye 10 Conference teams and every other team from the Atlantic State Qualifying Meet.
“This is probably the best we’ve done as a team in many, many years,” Schlapia said. “This is probably the most medals we’ve ever come back with as a Creston team. We’ve had some great individuals. You look at what we had this year with five guys, we ended up 15th place. I tell you what, that was awesome. Every event we were in, we medaled. I don’t think we’ve ever had that happen.”
Schlapia noted from 800 meter state champion Wolfe to those who were just looking to improve on their personal bests, every person on the team was part of the family.
“There from the get-go, we talked about family on this track team,” he said. “Everybody was a part of this team. It was neat to see everybody supporting each other, no matter what event we were in. Everybody was pulling for each other. That’s one thing that made this team special.”
As special as this season was for the Creston boys track team, Schlapia said it just raised the bar for next year.
“We had a lot of high expectations going into the season,” he said. “We exceeded those expectations and we’ll have higher expectations going into next year.”
(Number of years lettered)
Seniors — Trevor Luther (4), Evan Nielsen (2), Brandon Phipps (4), Maxx Walters (4), Jon Birchard (1).
Juniors — Bryce Briley (3), Alex Tamerius (2), Jay Wolfe (3).
Sophomores — Chris Foster (2), Seth Maitlen (2), Cooper McDermott (1), Travis Purdy (1), Nick Walsh (2).
Freshmen — Brody Frain (1), Tyler Peters (1), Cody Tanner (1).
Participation Award — Nathan Cox, Elijah Johnson.
State Track Awards — Bryce Briley, Cooper McDermott, Brandon Phipps, Maxx Walters, Jay Wolfe, Nick Walsh (alternate).
IATC Elite All-State — Jay Wolfe (800 meters).