Marshalltown junior Rachel Blagg was not too thrilled with her fourth-place performance in the 800-meter run at last Thursday's state qualifier at Leonard Cole Field.
Bobcat coach Chad Pietig had a different tone. He knew that one of his top runners would clinch an at-large spot in this week's Iowa High School State Track and Field Championships, which begins Thursday at Drake Stadium. The only issue was having to wait and find out officially.
Not having an automatic qualifer from the district meet last week, the Bobcats and Pietig were forced to wait and see who qualified for this year's meet in Des Moines.
T-R FILE PHOTO
Marshalltown’s Maggie Carnahan will making her first trip to the state track meet this week after qualifying with an at-large berth in the discus.
And Blagg's time of 2 minutes, 25.61 seconds will be the 14th-best time in the event. It will be one of three events that Blagg will compete in this week as Marshalltown advanced in the 4x400 relay and the distance medley and junior Maggie Carnahan also clinched a berth in the discus.
"Those have been four of our best events this year and those are the four events we thought coming in had the best chance to qualify," said Pietig. "We just had to wait a little longer to find out."
Running on the track before Blagg's anchor leg in the distance medley will be senior Chione Brooks, sophomore Tabby Steffensen and junior Jasmine Scott.
It will be Brooks' fourth state meet and she has been the team's best relay starter the past three seasons.
"She was actually offended when we tried to move her out of that first spot earlier this year," Pietig said. "That is what she does and she likes to get the team out to a good start."
That foursome will be in lane 6 of the second section. Joining them will be the two teams that finished ahead of them at districts - Linn-Mar and Newton.
"We should be faster in that relay because Jasmine wil give us a boost in that 400 leg," said Pietig. "Rachel also should be fresher. Running against Linn-Mar and Newton again will be a good challenge for them."
The distance medley will run at 9 a.m. on Friday. The 4x400 relay also will compete on Friday. The foursome of Blagg, Scott, Daesha Underhill and Sabrina Daugherty will hit the blue oval at 2 p.m. Daugherty helped the distance medley team qualify for state but will be replaced by Scott when they run Friday.
Pietig, though, is happy one of his seniors also gets to experience track on the biggest stage.
"She was a team player and knew that even if the distance medley qualified that she wouldn't be running at state and wanted to do it anyway," the Bobcat coach said. "She was crying when I told her that she was going to get to run in the 4x400. That was gratifying for me as a coach, and I am glad she gets to run."
The distance medley comes into the state meet ranked as the 12th-best team with a time of 4:25.54. Newton qualified with the 11th-best time at 2:24.20 and the if they want to crack the top 10, the Bobcats may have to come in at around 4:22.84, the time that Bettendorf ran to qualify 10th.
The 4x400 relay hit the finish line at districts in seventh place but still found a way in to the state meet after completing their mile in 4:16.10. That was the 21st-best qualifying time out of 24 teams.
Carnahan will make her state meet debut when she throws in the discus at 9 a.m. Thursday. She will be the fifth thrower in the first flight and advanced after placing fourth in the state qualifier with a toss of 106 feet, 6 inches.
"She just had a big smile on her face, but she doesn't get too high or too low usually," said Pietig. "It will be a good experience for her."
Blagg has had high expectations of herself all season. Pietig's expectations for perhaps his most talented runner may have been even higher.
She'll get the chance to showcase her abilities three times on the blue oval for the second straight season. She will lead off the 4x400 and run the 800 anchor leg in the medley.
Her individual effort in the 800 though may be the best chance to show what she can really do. Blagg specifically mentioned that race last Thursday as being one she was looking forward to running again at state.
"It would be really awesome to run in the 800," said Blagg, who competed in the 800 as well as the 4x400 and 4x800 at last year's state meet. "There were a lot of nerves last year and I didn't run as well as I wanted. It will be good to give that one another try."
She will hit the track bright and early at 9:50 a.m. Saturday. She will be fresher than any other time she has ran that race this year. Pietig is hoping that helps with her time and her overall finish.
"It is not uncommon to see the winner of the first heat place at state," Pietig said. "She comes in as the second-best qualifier from that first heat and needs to run the race with the intentions to win her heat. She has nothing to lose and it will be the last race of the year for her."
Blagg, who also ran in three events at state last year, was beaten at districts by three athletes who qualified in the top six. Linn-Mar's Stephanie Jenks was first and her teammate Amber Decker came in just behind her in second. Newton's Grace Coen's time in third was the sixth-best qualifying time as well. Those three were all right around or under the 2:20 mark.
That has been Blagg's goal all season.
"That is a huge mark for girls in the 800," Pietig said. "And I think she would be happier with running under 2:20 than she would be with anything else."
The preliminaries of the Class 1A and 4A girls shuttle hurdle relay kicks off the track events at the state meet. That event begins at 9 a.m. and the meet continues through the final event at 4:05 p.m. Saturday, which is the finals of the boys 4x400 relay.