DES MOINES - The last few meters may sting for awhile, but overall Victoria Pothast's last race on the blue oval left a more fulfilling memory than Friday's finale.
A day after a mishap in the exchange zone set the West Marshall senior well behind the rest of the field in the 4x400 relay prelims, Pothast responded with a ninth place finish of 2 minutes, 24.77 seconds in the 800 Saturday in Class 2A action at the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium.
Breaking away from the main pack early, Pothast sat comfortably behind Mount Vernon's Emma Cochrane through much of the first lap, before overtaking the lead with 300 meters to go. The senior stretched the gap down the homestretch to win the opening heat - though lost some ground and time when she accidentally stopped about 10 meters short of the finish. Pothast, who entered with the 13th seed, was alerted by some fans that she hadn't yet completed the race and looked back briefly before pushing toward the line.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
West Marshall’s Victoria Pothast pulls away from the field in the first section of the Class 2A 800. Despite inadvertently stopping 10 meters shy of the finish line, Pothast won her heat and placed ninth overall in a time of 2 minutes and 24.77 seconds.
"I have no clue what just happened there. ... I thought I was already at the finish line," said Pothast, who otherwise ran her race strategy according to plan.
"I knew I needed to get about a 68 (seconds) the first lap and a 68 the second lap to get a really good time. I kind of stopped there at the end so that kind of screwed it up."
While the stop-start finish may have spelled the difference between a medalist spot - Pothast was 2.28 seconds behind eighth place Ally McClure of Davis County - the senior still had something special to remember in her final race donning the West Marshall jersey.
"It's a pretty big thing to win (a heat at Drake)," said Pothast, who also placed seventh in the event a year ago and hadn't fully grasped the reality of wrapping up her prep career quite yet.
"It's pretty surreal right now. I don't think it will hit me until I take off my uniform tonight."
East Marshall's Paige Miller will also shed her high school jersey after her final race as a Mustang, though she's replacing it with a Cavaliers one later this fall.
The Johnson County Community College (Kansas) track and cross country commit capped her senior campaign with a ninth-place finish in the 1,500 in a time of 5:05.37. Staying within range of a medalist spot throughout the second half of the race, Miller fell just short of eighth - finishing 1.04 seconds behind Cascade's Kylie Kelchen.
"I tried to get up with that pack and I knew (Kelchen) was placing but she had a really great kick at the end," Miller said. "Ninth isn't too bad so I'm happy."
While her next running endeavors take her outside of Iowa, Miller will never forget the atmosphere of Drake.
"The crowd is insane and loud," Miller said. "It's such a great opportunity running here, I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Grundy Center's sprint medley was the lone representative Saturday in Class 1A. Jessica Ackerson, Sam Meyers, Heather Hook and Riley Ackerman ended with a 24th-place finish clocking 2:00.10.
Running the second leg of the 4x400 prelims Friday evening, West Marshall's Shelby Larsen appeared to get tripped up by another runner right before handing off the baton to Rachel Freland. The baton bounced loose when Larsen hit the track and she had to get up and retrieve it before handing off to Freland.
"I think the girl stepped on her foot and she just fell," said Pothast, who ran the anchor leg.