BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MT. PLEASANT – It was a bittersweet day on Friday afternoon for the Fort Madison Bloodhound boys and girls track team…but a bit more on the sweet side.
The Hounds qualified six runners for state at the State Qualifying event held Friday afternoon at the MapleLeaf Complex in Mt. Pleasant.
Junior Matt Hellige will be running in both the 3200- and 1600-meter runs at Drake Stadium on Thursday and Saturday. Hellige finished second to Mt. Pleasant’s Cody Mertens in both events Friday. Mertens suffered an injury at the beginning of the season and had been closing in on Hellige gradually throughout the year.
Mertens’ win in the 1600 was the first time he’d beaten Hellige in that event this year.
Quentin Schneider will represent the Hounds in the 400-meter hurdles with a second place 56.60. Schneider was a second behind Fairfield’s Ethan Hunt.
The girls shuttle hurdle relay team of Reyna Lampe, Taylor Barnes, Olivia Williams and Raquel Schneider surprised everyone by beating their season best by close to six seconds and took second for an automatic bid.
Schneider was a late-season addition to the squad and ran the final leg trying to catch Mt. Pleasant speedster Karsyn Lamm. Mt. Pleasant won the event at 1:09.62, while the Hounds were right behind at 1:10.37.
Head Coach Brian Mendez said Schneider, who’s a freshman this year, was informed on the van ride up that she would be running her leg against Lamm.
“Oh no!…..Who’s that?” Schneider said.
It will be the first trip to state for the either of the four girls and Williams, the only senior in the group, said she’s was surprised by the time.
“We just were trying to do our best and PR. We knew we’d have a shot at qualifying, but we didn’t know we’d have that time,” she said.
Mendez said Fort Madison girls haven’t qualified in a hurdle event in a long time.
“We’ve had most of our success in distance events. If you were to tell anyone back in Fort Madison that we qualified in the shuttle hurdle they probably wouldn’t believe you,” Mendez said.
The girls numbers were way down this year, but Mendez said the performance of the shuttle hurdle exemplifies what the year has been like.
“Never once have the girls given up this year. We tell them we need another second or two and they go get it. We’ve had personal records all through the year…but this was six seconds better. I don’t even know where that came from,” he said.
Hellige is the only Bloodhound returning to Drake Stadium for the state meet. He qualified in the 3200-meter run as sophomore where he finished 22nd with a time of 10:36, but had a season best 10:08 in 2018 and has run a sub-10 minute time on several occasions this year.
“Getting here I just had a good feeling about tonight. It was sunny and not to windy and really good race conditions,” Hellige said.
“This race I really just wanted to give it my all and try my best to qualify. I have had some really good races in the 3200 and 1600 this year and I don’t necessarily think this was my best effort but qualifying was the most important thing tonight.”
In the 1600, Hellige crossed at 4:36.95, 3.4 seconds behind Mertens.
Schneider will be making his first trip to the state tournament qualifying with 56.60 in the 400 hurdles, about a full second behind Washington’s Ethan Hunt. Schneider’s time puts him in the top 40 runners in the state in that event. Hunt has a 55.47 time that has him in the top 20 in the state.
Schneider had about a 10-meter lead after the third set of hurdles, but Hunt caught up to him on the fourth turn and outraced him down the final 90 meters for the win.
“I always want to be the first one to the first hurdle that’s kind of my goal. I think it’s 5.66 to the first, that’s what I think it should be, and then keep that pace going. Then on the back stretch kick it in as much as I possibly can,” said a winded Schneider after the run.
“I’m happy that I get to go to state. I would have loved to win, but Ethan Hunt is a fast kid.”
The bitter of the event came in the 4×400 relay team. The Hounds won that event at the conference meet last week with Brock Califf, Garrett Hannum, Andrew Schaeffer and Schneider with a 3:34.19. But came in fourth Friday behind Washington, Mt. Pleasant and Centerville, who finished the night’s events with a trio blaze to the line that brought the crowd to it’s feet.
“I think we kind of had a target on our back in that event after winning the conference meet,” said Fort Madison’s co-head coach Mike Schneider. “We had high hopes for that event, but Mt. Pleasant I think had a bit of a different team and Washington just ran awesome.”
Co-Head Coach Chad Hannum, said the boys have run hard all year.
“We ran good tonight. They have nothing to be ashamed about. We’re a really young team with just a couple of seniors and juniors, but the majority of this team is sophomores and freshman and we’ll get better.”