Weather conditions and the related schedule alterations that can follow are often the bane of the track and field runner trying to juggle multiple events. As a senior sprinter and multi-sport athlete, Maquoketa Valley’s Sam Wall has learned how to keep her cool when things start to deviate from the plan.
That type of mental fortitude led to some unforgettable final moments for Wall at the 1A State Track and Field Meet in Des Moines, May 16-18. In her final acts as a Wildcat, Wall earned a pair of runner-up finishes in both the 100 and 200-meter dash events and also helped the 4x400 relay team to a third-place finish.
In the 100, Wall qualified for the finals by winning the second of three preliminary heats in a time of 12.72. She entered the final seeded third behind perennial rival Madison Osborn, of Alburnett, and Ellie Loesch, of South Winneshiek. Wall went on to give Osborn a run for her money in the final, but ultimately finished second in an all-too close time of 12.77 to Osborn’s 12.74.
Wall made it through to the 200 finals after winning heat two of the preliminaries in a time of 26.16. Seeded second to Osborn and primed for yet another rematch with her old rival, Wall again earned the silver in a time of 26.05 behind Osborn (25.99).
Chronologically, the 200 final actually came before the 100. With weather concerns looming, the pace of the meet was accelerated, forcing Wall and her fellow competitors to adapt as best they could.
“I had to go back to the field house and kind of cool down and then come right back on the field, so it was a little different for me,” Wall said. “Over the course of the season you train to run back to back, though, and a lot of the girls who were in the 200 were also in the 100, so we were all in the same boat.”
Wall’s double medal performance was a fitting culmination of an all-time great career with the Wildcats. It was even sweeter due to the fact that she had been disqualified in last year’s 200 final while missing the 100 final by mere hundredths of a second.
“It means a lot (to win two medals),” Wall said. “Obviously, I would love to get the gold, but I am really proud of our team, we work really hard and they push me for moments like these. There have been so many amazing athletes who have gone through Maquoketa Valley and to be mentioned as one of them is truly an honor.”
Wall wasn’t the only Wildcat to score points, however, as junior Lydia Helle also finished eighth in the shot put finals with a throw distance of 37-2. Last year, Helle finished ninth with a mark of 38-5.25. Her efforts have been a major boost for the Wildcats in the field events all season long, according to MV head coach Creig Dunlap.
“(Helle) threw her first three throws all around the 37-foot mark and all six throws were within six inches of each throw except one. She has been very consistent and grew more than a foot from last season. She really took care of business down at state,” Dunlap said.
Two Wildcat relay teams also took part in the festivities. In the 4x400 preliminary, Payton Beaman, Kylie Chesnut, Amaya Hunt and Wall ran 4:10.21 to snag the fourth spot in the final. The quartet went on to place third overall in the May 18 final with a time of 4:11.99. Kee High took the gold in 4:07.43 ahead of runner-up Montezuma (4:08.78). Newell-Fonda (4:12.34) was fourth, followed by WB Mallard (4:13.52), Monona (4:14.19), AHSTW (4:14.59) and Grundy Center (4:16.05).
“Wall was a runner-up in the 4x4 in 2017, but (we) couldn’t quite get a team qualified for the 2018 season,” Dunlap said. “It is her favorite event so it was awesome to get this team qualified this season. I thought this group was something special as soon as we started the outdoor season. I love that these kids found a way to get in the top three in the state.”
Finally, the shuttle hurdle relay team of Leah Ries, Kailyn Hogan, Caelyn Sands and Beaman improved on their 13th seed to finish 12th overall with a time of 1:12.18. Winning the event was BCLUW (1:07.78).
“This group has continually improved all season and have been fun to watch grow,” Dunlap said of the shuttle hurdle unit. “They are a young team of two freshman, a sophomore and a junior and I am excited about the future for our hurdles and think this group will be great for years to come.”
All in all, the Wildcats scored 23 points for a ninth-place team finish in 1A. Every competitor aside from Wall is set to return for MV next season.
“It was fantastic to have this team perform as well as they did. I wasn’t surprised to get points at the state meet with these girls, but I was surprised to score as much as we did,” Dunlap said. “I am proud of these girls and am already excited about next year.”