DES MOINES — There was no shortage of confidence from Nevada’s Joven Nelson when he took the baton from Rodrigo Perez in the final exchange of the last heat of the Class 3A boys’ 4 X 200-meter relay during the state coed track meet Friday at Drake Stadium.
Just prior to the race, Nelson had conversed with Dallas Center-Grimes anchor Cade Bertrand. DCG had the top qualifying time in 3A at 1:30.19 and Nevada was second at 1:30.55, but Nelson made it known he and teammates Brendan Sellberg, Jakob Strottman and Perez didn’t intend for the final race to end that way.
“I knew that they had the better time so I asked them what heat they are in and he kept trying to say two, so I (said) no, you’re faster than that,” Nelson said. “I just said we’re going to beat them today and he started laughing and said we’ll see. I just walked away and said ‘yeah, we will see.”’
Nelson took the baton from Perez and went stride for stride with Bertrand and Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Jorma Schwedler around the turn and down the straightaway. When they reached the finish line, Nelson’s foot crossed just ahead of the other two, giving Nevada its first state championship relay team since 1976.
“This was the last time we’ll be able to run the 4 X 2 this year with our seniors,” Nelson said. “I just really wanted to run the best I could to get them the best time we could. It’s their last race in high school sports — there’s nothing like it afterwards.”
Nevada clocked in at one minute, 29.66 seconds — coming just short of the school-record time of 1:29.30 set in 1975. Sergeant Bluff-Luton took second in 1:29.78 and DCG finished in 1:29.82.
“We were pretty confident about this season,” Sellberg said. “We knew we could chase some records.”
Sellberg, Perez and Nelson also helped Nevada win a bronze medal in the sprint medley on Saturday. Preston Cattanach ran the other leg for the Cubs, who broke their own school record with a time of 1:33.60 to come in right behind Glenwood’s 3A-record time of 1:33.11 and Marion’s 1:33.30.
“It is pretty nice to get a gold and a bronze,” Perez said. “I’m just really happy how far we came this year battling through injuries.”
Last year was a nightmare for Nevada heading into state. Just prior to the 2017 state meet, Perez tore his ACL and Sellberg suffered a broken leg.
“Rodrigo and I, we both struggled this year at the beginning — it took us awhile to get back into it,” Sellberg said. “But we hit our stride toward the end of the season and that’s all that matters.”
“I was using a brace all season and I decided to tell (Nevada head boys’ track coach John Pelzer) I think I’m going to take my brace off for state to see if I can cut my time down,” Perez added. “I felt a lot better running without it because running with it was a pain.”
The championship and bronze medal performances also enabled Nevada to atone for a bad exchange in the 4 X 100 at the qualifying meet that cost them a trip to state in the event.
“We were all pretty hurt and disappointed by that,” Cattanach said. “So we wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.”
Nevada ended up tying Center Point-Urbana for 13th place in the final 3A boys’ team standings at state with 21 points. Marion took the 3A boys’ team championship with 69 points.
“In my career (23 years), this is the finest track and field team I’ve worked with,” Pelzer said. “Andrew Saunders deserves mention as our alternate in the 4 X 200 relay as do our fine coaching staff of Mike Christiansen, Cary Thompson, John Sletten, Bob Impecoven and Carl Pelzer!”
Malachi Hornbuckle capped his outstanding career as a distance runner in track and outstanding cross country competitor by taking fifth in the 3A boys’ 3,200 on Thursday and 10th in the 1,600 on Friday.
In the 3,200, Hornbuckle broke his own school record with a tremendous time of 9:50.84.
“We started out and I initially sat behind the first guy and then he was going relatively slow and everybody else got in front of us, so then the back half of the first lap and into the second lap there was a lot of jostling around,” Hornbuckle said. “On the first half of the second lap I said screw this, I’m going up in the front and we’ll see what happens.”
“I kind of got towed along and held off long enough to get a gap on people,” Hornbuckle said. “My lack of a kick at the end wasn’t too big of a factor because we had gotten rid of most of the people.”
CPU’s Myles Bach won the 3A 3,200 in 9:28.90.
On Saturday, Hornbuckle clocked in with a new personal-best time of 4:30.66 in the 1,600.
“I’m a little sad its over,” Hornbuckle said. “But that was a good one to end on. I’m glad I feel really wiped right now because that means I gave it everything I had and that’s all you can do.”
Sam Abraham also placed eighth in the 3A boys’ long jump for Nevada with a jump of 20 feet, eight inches.
“Sam Abraham was a real pleasant surprise for us this season,” Pelzer said. “To place at the state meet in your first year out for track is nothing short of remarkable! We are very glad Sam is a junior!”
Strottman and Nelson both competed in the 400 hurdles on Friday. Strottman placed 12th in :56.43 and Nelson 15th in :57.10.
Sellberg came in 18th in the 100 prelims on Thursday with a time of :11.65. Om’Unique Wilkerson competed in the high jump, but an injured quad suffered during the shuttle hurdle relay at the qualifying meet took a toll on him as he couldn’t clear the initial height.
“Om’Unique tried so hard to come back from his injury but could not get any lift at the high jump Thursday,” Pelzer said. “I reminded him that he had earned the right to be there. He was a two-time state qualifier and a Drake Relays qualifier.”
The Nevada girls had one participant at state in sophomore Kacie Rewerts. Rewerts ran both the 3A girls’ 3,000 on Thursday and 1,500 on Saturday.
“I’m so proud of Kacie,” Nevada head girls’ track coach Ted Johnson said. “She has worked really hard this year and during the offseason. She is extremely busy with school and other sports and still finds the time to run extra on her free time.”
Rewerts placed 18th in the 3,000 with a time of 11:21.74. She came back with a stronger performance on Saturday, completing the 1,500 in 4:56.60 to take 10th and shave seven seconds off her previous best time of the season.
“It felt awesome,” Rewerts said of her 1,500 showing. “I was working to get under five (minutes) and I think I got four seconds under it, so I’m very happy with that.”
Pella won the 3A girls’ team title with 70 points. Crestwood scored 64 points to place second.
Final Class 3A boys’ team scores, top 15
1. Marion 69 points, 2. Atlantic 63, 3. Sergeant Bluff-Luton 48, 4. Dubuque Wahlert 45.5, 5. Gilbert 40, 6. DCG 38.3, 7. Mount Pleasant 37, 8. Glenwood 32, 9. Algona 30, 10. Boone 28, 11. Solon 27, 12. Pella 24, 13. (tie) Nevada and Center Point-Urbana 21, 15. Decorah 18.
Individual 3A results Nevada
3,000-meter run - 18. Kacie Rewerts, 11:21.74.
1,500-meter run - 10. Rewerts, 4:56.60.
Long jump - 8. Sam Abraham, 20-8.
High jump - Om’Unique Wilkerson, NH.
Sprint medley relay - 3. Nevada (Brendan Sellberg, Preston Cattanach, Rodrigo Perez, Joven Nelson), 1:33.60.
3,200-meter run - 5. Malachi Hornbuckle, 9:50.84.
100-meter dash - 18 (prelims). Sellberg, :11.65.
4 X 200-meter relay - 1. Nevada (Sellberg, Jakob Strottman, Perez, Nelson), 1:29.66.
400-meter hurdles - 12. Strottman, :56.43; 15. Nelson, :57.10.
1,600-meter run - 10. Hornbuckle, 4:30.66.