BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DES MOINES – Fort Madison’s Elijah Barnes, who’s been setting personal bests like changing his shoes this year, set another personal best in the discus to highlight local action at the IAHSAA/IGHSAU State Track meet Thursday.
Barnes competed in the discus throw in Thursday’s afternoon session on the north side of Drake Stadium, while almost simultaneously, Matthew Hellige was running in the 3200 meter run. Hellige was scheduled to run at 3:50 and Barnes’ competition was set for 4:30, but technical delays and restarts had the track events running about an hour behind schedule.
“I didn’t really plan on making it to state in this,” Barnes said after the event. “But I don’t know – you make it up here and if you’re a competitor, you want to compete. I did throw a personal record by five feet so I guess there’s that. But we’re represented pretty well from southeast Iowa. There are two in there from our area so they’ll show well for us,. My event is tomorrow so I’ll get my chance then.”
Barnes was in the second flight of 12 and just missed medaling with a throw of 153′-5″ which was good enough for ninth place overall. Barnes only threw the discus in a few meets as a junior, his first year in the event.
“For him to come in here and throw a personal record, I’m not sure you can ask for much more than that,” said FMHS Head Coach Erin Benner.
Mt. Pleasant’s Zach Beason threw a 160′-4″ to finish in 5th place and West Burlington-Notre Dame’s Niles Siefken threw 156′-6″ to take the 8th place medal.
Hellige finished 22nd in the 3200 with a time of 10:36.34 a full 19 seconds off his district time of 10:17. He said the large grouping of runners was a little problematic as the race progressed. The 3200-meter run isn’t flighted, so all 24 runners take off from staggered lines and then jockey for position as they all move to the inside. “There were a lot of runners and that’s a little different,” Hellige said. “You’re not in control of the pace and when there’s a bunch of people in front of you it can get a little tough.”
The Holy Trinity Catholic sophomore isn’t used to running behind too many runners, but typically when running against Mt. Pleasant he’s looking ahead at Cody Mertens. Mertens finished fourth, getting nipped at the finish by a hard-charging Andrew Kephart of Decorah, who caught Mertens with less than 10 meters left in the race.
Hellige said the track was also a little hotter than he expected, but he said now it’s time to take a little time off before he starts gearing up for cross country season and a possible return trip to the state cross country meet.
“It’ll be good to eat what I want for awhile and then I’m just gonna take a little time off and get ready for cross,” Hellige said.
He said he’s been working with Jiro Scruggs during the indoor and outdoor season on some different techniques.
“He’s really helped me on my running form this year. Eyesocket to backpocket and a lot on running form and pacing,” he said.
Benner, who had to run back and forth between the two events said she was happy with Hellige’s performances.
“I’m proud of Matt and the work he put in this year. He’s got two more years and I have no doubt he’s going to come back here both of those years. He’s a hard worker and committed to the sport,” she said.
Central Lee’s Class 2A Shuttle hurdle relay team of Zoe Eschman, Wendolyn Hannum, Hailey Tweedy, and Abby Wellman will compete in preliminaries for the last event of the day on Thursday.
On tap for Friday, HTC senior Brett Schneider will run for the Hounds in the 400-meter hurdles at approximately 5:20 p.m. FMHS senior Leigh Johnson will compete in the 3A girls shotput at approximately 2 p.m., while Central Lee’s Emily Fuller will compete in the Class 2A girls discus at the same time.