Keahna looks to cap state career, Tyynismaa just getting started
TAMA — It will be a special moment when the South Tama County track and field teams take to the Blue Oval at the start of the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium this morning.
Trojan senior Keith Keahna will be defending his Class 3A state title in the high jump in his fourth and final appearance at the state meet, while on the girls end the budding freshman standout JoJo Tyynismaa will get her first taste of the state atmosphere.
Keahna enters this year’s high jump competition seeded second after putting up a height of 6 feet, 7 inches, in the state-qualifying meet last Friday. He had consistently hit 6-7 all last year, even winning the state title with a vault of 6-8, but the district meet was the first time Keahna had hit the mark this year.
“That was exciting, I was like, ‘yes, I finally got it,'” the University of Iowa track commit said. “It was my goal after the Drake Relays to finally get 6-7 and I accomplished that, now the goal is to get 6-9, break the school record and go back-to-back.”
Keahna placed fourth in the Drake Relays this year with a height of 6-6, and combined with his second-place Drake Relay finish last year and his state title Keahna has placed at least in the top four in his three times at the Blue Oval.
STC head boys track coach Dan Mayo said Keahna getting the monkey off his back with the 6-7 clear should be good for his mentality.
“Keith hasn’t been jumping as well as he had hoped for this year but he jumped really well at districts and we are really peaking right now and excited to defend it,” Mayo said.
Unlike the other trips he’s made, however, Keahna won’t be done after his final jump. He also qualified individually in the 400-meter dash, where he is seeded 14th overall, and he is part of the qualifying 4×400 team along with Tyrin Lasley, Gabe Babinat and Drake Crawford.
“Since probably his sophomore year he’s been one of our better runners,” Mayo said. “Last year he was our best runner, this year it’s between him and Drake Crawford. Basically every meet this year he’s done four events, he’s just the guy who’s going to be here all the time.”
Even though he knows his abilities, Keahna said it’s still nice to branch out and do some other things at the state meet.
“I’m excited, I can finally do something down at state besides high jump. This will be my first time ever running a race at the Blue Oval, and I will be running two races,” he said. “I’m excited to have my two other seniors in Drake and Gabe with me, that’s going to be awesome for them to go out running at state for the first time in their careers.”
While Keahna wraps up his state career for the Trojans, Tyynismaa will just be getting started.
Tyynismaa as a freshman has qualified for four state events. She is seeded third in the 100 hurdles with a time of 15.52 seconds and seventh in the 400 hurdles with a 1:07.13. Tyynismaa is also part of the fourth-seeded shuttle hurdle relay team along with Stacey Slaven, Gracie Vest and Caitlyn Stochl, and the 10th-seeded 4×100 team along with Stochl, Ashton Graham and Slaven.
Trojan girls head coach Levi Hunnerdosse said Tyynismaa’s success this year didn’t come out of nowhere.
“We knew she was very talented coming in,” he said. “I don’t know if we knew how she would stack up against all the girls with a lot of experience, but what’s been exciting is seeing how she has developed and found a place with all of those experienced runners and hurdlers. I think sometimes she surprises herself, and she surprises us coaches as well with what she is able to do and how really mature and how far along she is as a freshman.”
Tyynismaa’s coming out party was the Drake Relays, where she placed 18th among the state’s best with a time of 15.62 seconds.
“Some of those girls were in my district as well, so running against them there helped and running against them at state will hopefully bring me to even better times,” she said.
Hunnderdosse attributed running against tough 3A competition every night as part of what developed Tyynismaa this year.
“When we run against Benton multiple times, when we run against Mount Vernon multiple times, that’s the competition you’re seeing night in and night out,” he said. “You either step up to the plate or you get left in the dust, and she has stepped up to the plate this year for sure.”
It takes a special athlete to want to excel at the hurdles, and Tyynismaa said she takes pride in being good at a race that others don’t necessarily enjoy.
“It’s something different. It’s really fun, something that not very many people like to do,” she said. “Watching them at college meets as well, I’m just amazed at what people can do.”
The transition from Keahna — and Slaven as a three-time high jump qualifier — to Tyynismaa is something the coaching staff has noticed as the year has gone along.
“South Tama track right now is overall in a good place,” Hunnerdosse said. “We just had two stellar four-year careers with Keith and Stacey, along with some other key individual leaders, but that’s kind of set the stage for the incoming group to see how things should be done and what it takes to have those successes and start leaving their legacy.”
Keahna said he’s almost as eager to watch what Tyynismaa can do in her first meet as he is to get started in his own events.
“I’m really excited to see what she can do. A freshman going in all four of her events? That’s ridiculous, that’s just crazy to do,” he said. “That’s something that she can say and not very many can. It will be really exciting to see what she does for the next three years.”
Tyynismaa said the lessons she has taken from people like Keahna and Slaven and her coaches will help her as she continues to represent the Trojans.
“Watching them compete and work hard in practices and everything has motivated me to work hard in practice with everything that I do,” she said. “I feel like they are kind of handing it off to me and allowing me to do great things in my career.”
Keahna, Tyynismaa and the rest of the Trojans will start the state tournament at 9 a.m. this morning at Drake Stadium.