Depth delivers second-straight conference crown for Mustangs

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSEFLD • Nick Meling, left, leads Caleb Silver, right in the 3,200-meter run Thursday during the NICL West Division meet in State Center. Meling won the event in a time of 10 minutes, 23.22 seconds, to help the Mustangs to their second-straight conference team title.

STATE CENTER — This year, the East Marshall boys track and field team didn’t wait until the final race to seal their conference meet victory. They just waited until the second-to-last event.

After crunching numbers once again, East Marshall head coach Ryan Hull and Co. learned after a second-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay, they would once again, for the second consecutive year, be the NICL West Division champions.

East Marshall scored 129 team points to edge out a hungry AGWSR team, which finished second with 114 points. But what might’ve been more interesting than winning their third conference title in four years was how they did it.

The Mustangs didn’t win a single relay event, coming in second four different times. Senior Nick Meling scored the most points for the purple and gold, winning the 1,600 (4 minutes, 46.47 seconds) and the 3,200 (10:33.22).

“I think I’m going to peak at the right time,” Meling said. “I don’t think I’ve hit my peak yet. Next week I’m going to improve and the week after hopefully I’m going to go to state and improve on that.”

T-R PHOTO BY STEPHEN KOENIGSEFLD

The Mustangs’ top distance runner said winning a pair of conference titles was fun and all, but the team effort was where he focused his energy. And the Mustangs needed all the focus they could get.

After Tate Hofmeister took second place behind Meling in the 1,600 (4:50.36), the Cougars trailed by just two points heading into the second-to-last event. Hull, who was named the 2017 NICL West Coach of the Year, said once the meet was said and done, and his athletes were taking their victory lap, he could finally breathe easy once again.

“We’re really not outstanding in any certain area,” Hull said. “We just have a lot of good kids; we’re really fairly deep. That showed tonight, especially in some of the relays. We didn’t win a single relay tonight, but like I told the kids before the meet, first places aren’t going to win this meet. It’s going to be the seconds and the thirds.”

Brandon Fogt added a conference title in the 100 to this resume, running the dash in 11.38. Between Meling and Fogt, those were the only East Marshall champions Thursday night.

The throwing duo of Nathan Karsjens and Caleb Meinders accounted for 34 of the Cougars 114 second-place points. Karsjens won the discus with a throw of 150 feet, 8 inches, while Meinders was second with a 129-7. Meinders first won the shot put with a 55-9 and Karsjens came back to take third with a 48-7.

Karsjens said his second-straight conference title comes from working a lot on his finesse and technique, anyway he can.

“I always watch videos of Olympic discus throwers, seeing which ones have my physique,” Karsjens said. “I’m copying [Christoph Harting] a German thrower who won the Olympics last year. He’s long and tall just like me, so, hopefully I can keep watching more videos and get my feet right.”

Meinders added that he’s spent a lot of time focusing on his technique, too. And after a less-than-ideal performance at the Drake Relays, he said he’s ready to take the final step toward throwing 60 feet.

“You can never truly be satisfied,” Meinders said. “It’s just part of your competitive nature. I practiced quite a bit over the week and this morning. I wasn’t getting things down and needed to change a little bit. Then boom, threw a little farther than last time. It’s all about critiquing yourself to get better.”

The Cougars had a 4×800 relay (8:25.98) take first, as well as finding Liam Stubbe a win in the 400 hurdles (57.59) for the other AGWSR conference champs.

Grundy Center took third with 97 points, led by Finn Cleveland. The distance runner tallied 16 points with a win in the 800 (2:06.40), while he helped anchor the winning 4×400 relay of Adam Kaufman, Bryce Flater and Caleb Kuiper (3:32.70). He also anchored the same foursome to a win in the distance medley (3:44.23) as well.

Troy Dolphin was named the NICL West Athlete of the Year, and for good reason. The senior sprinter led the Comets to a fourth-place finish with 94 points, as he went on to win the 200 (23.35), 400 (52.39) and anchored the first-place 4×100 relay team of Ben paper, Greg Schmitt and Jack Garber (45.85).

The Comets’ shuttle hurdle relay of Coby Willett, Connor Thompson, Schmitt and Jack Garber took first as well in 1:03.77. Garber also won the 110 hurdles in 15.17.

The West Marshall boys took fifth on their home track, scoring 81 points behind first-place performances from Beau Coberley and David Disney.

Coberley won the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 2 inches, and was runner-up to Dolphin in the 200 (23.67). Coberley also anchored the winning 4×200 relay of Josh Larsen, Disney and Ross Randall (1:36.53).

Disney was first in the high jump, clearing 6-1.

Gladbrook-Reinebeck took sixth with 43 points. Erik Knaack led the Rebels with 11.5 points, as he finished third in the long jump (19-4 3/4), but ran the second leg of the first-place sprint medley relay, which included Cael Wyatt, Parker Bown and Walker Thede (1:37.91). Since it was the first year of the sprint medley for the boys, the Rebels set a new NICL West Conference meet record with their time.

The South Hardin boys were seventh with 31 team points. Tanner Lawrence led the way for the Tigers with a third-place finish in the 110 hurdles (17.04) and an eighth-place finish in the 200 (24.74). Aden Butler was third in the 400 hurdles (1:00.69) as well.

Boys Standings — 1. East Marshall 129, 2. AGWSR 114, 3. Grundy Center 97, 4. BCLUW 94, 5. West Marshall 81, 6. Gladbrook-Reinbeck 43, 7. South Hardin 31.