Banding together: Colo-NESCO looks to keep state tradition going in the boys’ shuttle hurdle relay

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

A little while back Colo-NESCO junior Steven Cutler inadvertently got a fashion trend going on the Royal boys’ track team. 

Cutler was telling his shuttle hurdle relay teammate Spencer Hansen about his hair being a distraction during competition on the track. Cutler happened to mention wanting to get a tied-back headband to keep his hair from getting in his eyes. 

“He says, 'oh, let’s get headbands for the whole team,'” Cutler said. “I’m like, 'no, that’s not what I was thinking.'” 

It was too late. Hansen said he had already ordered white headbands for the whole team. 

“Shuttle hurdle has been one of our best races for our school for a while now,” Hansen said. “It just popped in my head let’s get headbands — let's look sharp.” 

Sporting a white headband, Colo-NESCO anchor runner Kenny Cutler crosses a hurdle during the boys' shuttle hurdle relay at the Colo-Dave Robinson Relays hosted by Colo-NESCO at Cub Stadium in Nevada Friday. Colo-NESCO placed second in the event and inched closer to being among the top 24 teams in Class 1A.

So on Friday three members of the Royal shuttle hurdle team – Cutler, Hansen and Tanner Halverson – all sported big white headbands resembling the characters Johnny Lawrence and Daniel LaRusso from ‘The Karate Kid’ franchise. Only lead runner Ryan Wonders was without the headband. 

They turned out to be a good-luck charm.  

Colo-NESCO placed second to Lynnville-Sully Friday with a time of one minute, 11.10 seconds. The Royals shaved nearly four seconds off their season-opening time of 1:15.97 on the same track when they competed at the Nevada Cub Relays March 30. 

Colo-NESCO ended last week ranked just outside the top-24 state-qualifying cutoff among Class 1A shuttle hurdle teams. The Royals are ranked 25th, just a little behind Bedford’s time of 1:10.90. 

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The shuttle hurdle has been the Colo-NESCO boys’ top event for over a decade. 

Despite not having its own asphalt track to run on Colo-NESCO has qualified for state seven times in the shuttle hurdle since 2007.  

The Royals’ best finish was 1A state runner-up in 2016. They’ve also finished fourth twice. 

“Out of the 13 years the boys’ state meet has had the shuttle hurdle relay event, we have qualified seven times with six teams medaling,” Colo-NESCO head coach Tony Stalzer said. “Not bad for a school that still has a cinder track.” 

In 2019 — the last year the state track meet took place before the COVID-19 outbreak took away the 2020 season — Colo-NESCO placed sixth in 1A. Cutler and Wonders were backups on that team behind Jack McKinney, Luke Hill, Kelly Gray and Devin Reed. 

“We are a very inexperienced group,” Stalzer said. “Ryan and Kenny were my backups two years ago, but by missing the season last year, we don't have any racing experience. Spencer Hansen and Tanner Halverson have stepped into their spots nicely, and Nolan Smith and Nathan McFarland have been working on hurdling in practice too, so we have some youth. It's just (a matter of) developing them.” 

The Royal runners have already shown the ability to learn quickly. 

“You start to find more stuff as you go on,” Cutler said. “The first meet of the year we were all four-stepping at least a few hurdles. The next meet we came out, three of us were three-stepping all of them.”  

Spencer Hansen is looking to help Colo-NESCO qualify for state in the 1A boys' shuttle hurdle relay for the eighth time.

With the growth they’ve shown in just three weeks of outdoor competition, the Royals are feeling confident they can move up in the 1A rankings and make it back to Drake Stadium in Des Moines next month — with or without the headbands. 

“I think we can get there,” Cutler said. “We’ve just got to keep working in practice.”