Spartans a smashing success

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Grundy Center’s Tate Jirovsky (1) brings the chase pack to the finish line in the Class 2A 4x400-meter relay on Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The Spartan quartet of Brayden Wallis, Brody Zinkula, Brayden Davie and Jirovsky broke their school record on the way to a second-place finish in the event.

DES MOINES — Grundy Center’s boys continue to raise the bar in the 4×400-meter relay.

A year after breaking the school record with a fifth-place finish in the 2A finals at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, the Spartans obliterated that record as runners-up in Saturday’s 4×400 final at the Iowa High School Track & Field Championships.

Brayden Wallis, Brody Zinkula, Brayden Davie and Tate Jirovsky ran 3:21.73 to blow past the previous record of 3:25.48 which Zinkula, Davie and Jirovsky set along with Tyler Venenga in 2023.

“A huge improvement from last year, and that’s what we were aiming for,” Davie said.

South Hamilton won the event with a state-meet record of 3:16.35.

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - Brayden Wallis, center, celebrates with teammates Tate Jirovsky, left, and Brayden Davie, right, after the Spartans finished second in the Class 2A 4x400-meter relay on Saturday at the state meet in Des Moines.

Grundy Center qualified for the event in seventh but Zinkula said the finals showed where the Spartans could lock in on the details.

“I know most teams think handoffs in an event like this aren’t imporant,” Zinkula said, “but they can shave off at least a half-second, which is what we ended up beating Okoboji [in third place] by.”

Combining that with the Spartan boys’ confidence in high-pressure situations from other sports propelled Grundy Center not just in the 4×4 final but in events all weekend.

“We’ve been on this stage quite a bit,” Jirovsky said. “We’re competitors and we go out there wanting to win as bad as the person next to us, if not more so.”

Jirovsky is the only member of this relay that graduates, but the Spartans feel his input has been priceless.

T-R PHOTO BY JAKE RYDER - East Marshall’s Kaleb Grant (7) runs the homestretch during the Class 2A 800-meter run on Saturday. Grant was 23rd in 2 minutes, 5.2 seconds.

“You know you can always count on him for anything you need at practice,” Wallis said. “He’ll push everybody. He’s a great leader for all of us.”

Jirovsky signed with Central College and plans to play football and baseball with the Dutch.

“I’m incredibly grateful and blessed to be with these guys, and all my teammates, the coaches, the community,” Jirovsky said. “I’ve said it before, but Grundy Center is a special place and we’re happy to represent it.”

Spartan sophomore Emerson Vokes finished fourth in the 1,600-meter run for his second state medal of the weekend.

Vokes ran 4:26.63 to beat his district time of 4:28.77 and was much faster than his 17th-place finish last year in the event in 4:35.99.

“I felt way more confident,” Vokes said of this year’s mile race. “And coming in seeded number one doesn’t mean a lot, but it meant a lot to me and brought me a lot of confidence that I could do it. And the training I’ve done allowed me to be that way.”

Caleb Ten Pas of Des Moines Christian, also a sophomore, won the event in 4:19.93. Vokes was also fourth in the 3,200 on Thursday.

“I just want to keep training smart and train the right way,” Vokes said. “Obviously, I’ll take these next couple of weeks off to enjoy myself and maybe eat some other foods.”

Grundy Center’s sprint medley of Devin Hinders, Ryker Thoren, Grant Newton and Zinkula finished fifth in 1 minute, 35 seconds flat, a new school record.

Hinders, Thoren and Newton were part of the 4×100 prelims on Friday that finished 22nd.

“We talked last night about how our handoffs weren’t good,” Thoren said. “We got out here today and practiced a little bit before we went on the track and we just got our handoffs down.”

The Spartans felt the baton passes were much better as a result, setting up Zinkula for a speedy anchor leg to win the second section and get Grundy into the top eight.

“I felt good coming off the curve, knew I had to catch some people to get Brody in a good spot,” Newton said. “And those handoffs are everything. They were right on the money today, steps were perfect. Brody’s one of our fastest 400 runners, so I knew we were in a good spot.”

Hinders, a sophomore who was an alternate last year for the Spartans, was also on the 4×200 relay that placed seventh on Friday.

“Qualifying for three events this year means a lot to me,” Hinders said. “I didn’t get a lot of time to let it sink in but now that I do, it’s just a great feeling, especially to get a couple medals around my neck.”

The Spartan boys scored 28 points to finish 10th in Class 2A.

“We ran to our fullest potential for sure,” Jirovsky said. “We may have left some points on the table, some of that was due to injuries, shoutout to [Spartan senior distance runner] Kaden Lynch, I feel so terrible for him, but I think we performed really well down here.”


Around the area in 2A: Grundy Center’s Tyler Venenga was 13th in the 2A 800-meter run in 1:59.61 in his final race as a Spartan. He was a five-time state medalist at Grundy Center. … East Marshall’s Kaleb Grant finished 23rd in the 2A 800 in 2:05.02.


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