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Puumala reaches finals; Schaper 7th in shot put

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON - West Marshall junior Renae Schaper competes in the Class 2A shot put during Thursday’s opening day of the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Schaper placed seventh with a throw of 39 feet, 6 inches.

DES MOINES — After nearly a week of hype and preparation, the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships kicked off on Thursday at Drake Stadium and East Marshall senior Melinda Puumala got to start her journey.

Puumala, one of three girls in Class 2A to qualify in four events, started her final state meet with the event she’s competed in at state the last three years, the long jump.

It wasn’t a great start to this final showing at Drake Stadium for Puumala, however, as she scratched on her first two jumps in the second heat and finally got a mark down on her final attempt, but her distance of 16 feet, 1 3/4 inches wasn’t enough to put her in the finals as she finished in 13th, which was still her best placing of her career.

“I have a soft spot for long jump, I’ve qualified in it all four years and I really shouldn’t be upset with my 16-plus jump because I’ve never jumped 16 feet at state, but I am disappointed in myself for not adjusting to the board,” Puumala said.

She didn’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for herself, however, because 10 minutes after failing to make the finals in the long jump Puumala was on the track running for a qualification in the 100-meter dash.

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

“I had a nice cry for about one minute, let it all out and was ready to go for the 100,” she said.

Whatever she did to get her mind right worked, as Puumala ran her fastest time of her career with a 12.76 to win her heat of the 100 and qualify with the fourth-best time of the day.

“I always get nervous at big meets like state, Drake, districts even, so before the race my heart was in my stomach and I wasn’t feeling good, but once I get in the blocks I kind of think, ‘it’s go time,'” she said.

Puumala actually didn’t get off to a great start, which she said is usually the case, but as the race went along she quickly gained ground.

“I always feel like in the middle of the race everybody is slowing down, or they are at their peak and I am still getting to mine,” she said. “I think I have an advantage in that way, I’m a distance runner so I know how to pace myself. But this you can’t pace yourself, you just have to get it and go.”

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON

After four years of competing at the state meet, Puumala finally put herself in position to score her first points for the Mustangs with her qualification for the 100 finals, which will run on Saturday at

“I have been trying all four years to try and get a medal, and that’s a state medal, unless I false start, and we are going to make sure I don’t do that,” she said.

While Puumala is in position to score her first points, West Marshall junior Renae Schaper put the Trojans on the board for a second-straight year by placing seventh in the shot put.

Schaper actually placed fifth in the shot put last year, but her throw of 39-6 on Thursday was actually a foot and a half further than it was a year ago.

“I am pretty happy, there’s a lot of good seniors who are going to graduate, which will open it up a little bit for next year,” Schaper said. “I just need to keep working hard and maybe next year I will do better.”

Schaper’s best throw came on her first toss of the final heat, as she hadn’t broken 39 feet in her first three throws. Schaper said generally her best throw is her first of the day, so she wasn’t expecting to nearly touch 40 feet in the final heat.

“In the final I just was kind of winging it, but I just launched it I guess,” she said.

There was a great crowd on hand from West Marshall to watch Schaper represent the Trojans as well, which she said made her performance all the more special.

“To have people come and watch me from my school and stuff, that means a lot,” she said.

With four of the seven girls who finished ahead of her — including now two-time champion Brylie Zeisneiss from South Hardin who won with a throw of 46-5 — graduating this year, Schaper said her senior year will be her time to shine at state.

“Better than seventh, that’s the plan,” she said with a laugh.