After a Class 4A third-place finish at last year’s state track meet, graduation hit the Western Dubuque boys’ program hard.
The remaining Bobcats, though, have hit back.
“We lost a lot, but we knew our junior class was very strong,” Western Dubuque Coach Tom Jasper said. “We do have a lot of strong athletes back.”
There’s quality, and there’s quantity, too, with 65 boys on the roster. All that adds up to what ought to be another highly successful night Thursday at the Wamac Conference meet.
Conference — or, in the case of the Mississippi Valley Conference, divisional — meets are set Thursday and Friday throughout Eastern Iowa.
The MVC splits its competition into four sites: Mississippi Division girls at Iowa City West and boys at Kingston Stadium, and Valley Division girls at Cedar Rapids Prairie and boys at Dubuque. Those meets were originally scheduled for Thursday but were postponed to Friday due to the threat of severe storms.
The rest of the area meets are co-ed and still on for Thursday. The Wamac meet is at Solon, River Valley at West Liberty, Tri-Rivers at Central City, Northeast Iowa at Charles City and Upper Iowa at Calmar.
After a cold, snowy April that forced coaches to scramble to qualify individuals and relays for the Drake Relays, the team aspect of the sport now is front and center.
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“We’re definitely going to try to get the most out of our athletes,” Linn-Mar girls’ coach Nathan Hopp said. “We want to do what we can to win a divisional championship. We’re going to put kids in the best possible situation for their success, and the team’s success.”
Hopp’s team figures to be in a three-team battle for the Mississippi Division title, along with Iowa City West and Dubuque Wahlert.
“West definitely has the edge in the throws,” Hopp said. “Wahlert has the sprints, and we do too. Those three teams are going to score a lot of points.”
West’s boys are a significant favorite to rule at Kingston, and Cedar Falls looks like the team to beat in both Valley Division team races, though the boys will be tested by several other teams.
Western Dubuque scored 54 points at state last year, and lost 50.25 of them to graduation. But the Bobcats have reloaded quickly, and join Solon’s girls as the Wamac favorites.
This is Western Dubuque’s final season in the Wamac before departing next year for the MVC.
“We’re hoping to win this last one,” Jasper said. “We want to try to put the best group together than we can.”
Montezuma boys, Belle Plaine girls prevail in SICL
Conference-meet week began Tuesday with the South Iowa Cedar League competition at Sully.
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Montezuma edged Lynnville-Sully by a 116.5-114 margin to capture the girls’ title. Belle Plaine claimed the boys crown with 155.5 points, with Lynnville-Sully second at 108.5.
Area conference track and field meets
MVC Mississippi Division (Friday, 4:30 p.m.: Girls at Iowa City West; boys at Kingston Stadium)
The three best teams in the MVC (Iowa City West, Linn-Mar and Dubuque Wahlert) all can be found in the Mississippi Division, and will distance themselves from the rest of the pack. Linn-Mar is led by three-event Drake champion Payton Wensel. West has a big advantage in the field events (particularly the throws), and that might vault the Women of Troy to the top. West is the class of the boys’ competition behind Drake 400-meter hurdles champion Austin West.
MVC Valley Division (Friday, 4:30 p.m.: Girls at C.R. Prairie; boys at Dubuque)
There is a wealth of quality in the boys’ field, and five teams are legitimate title contenders. Cedar Falls is a slight favorite based on its across-the-board strength. Dubuque Senior, Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Iowa City High and Cedar Rapids Prairie are capable of pushing their way to the top. Cedar Falls’ girls are top-seeded in six of seven relays, and that separates the Tigers from a field that is extremely balanced from 2 through 6.
Wamac (Thursday, 4:30 p.m., at Solon)
This is Western Dubuque’s final season in the league before venturing off to the MVC, and the Bobcats are primed to ride off with another boys’ title. Marion and Mount Vernon finished 1-2 in Class 3A at last year’s state meet, and the Indians probably are Western Dubuque’s top challenger. Solon really doesn’t have any weaknesses in its lineup and is the girls’ favorite. Benton Community has star power in the sprints and hurdles with Grace Martensen and the Masten twins.
River Valley (Thursday, 4:30 p.m., at West Liberty)
On the boys’ side, Mid-Prairie figures to dominate the middle- and long-distance races, both individually and in relays. And that gives the Golden Hawks the edge. Led by Drake 100-meter champion Tanner Iske, West Liberty is the chief challenger. The Hostetler sisters give Mid-Prairie’s girls a big boost, but North Cedar is a slight favorite, and defending 2A state champion Cascade can’t be ruled out, nor can Monticello.
Tri-Rivers (Thursday, 4 p.m., at Central City)
Defending 1A state champion Lisbon is the Tri-Rivers favorite again, but no longer an overwhelming one. Lisbon’s strength in the 800 and 1,600-meter races and the distance relays might be enough to stave off challenges from Calamus-Wheatland and North Linn. This isn’t one of the stronger North Linn girls’ teams in recent memory, but the Lynx will put together some strong relays, and that should get them over the top. Lisbon and Alburnett are the next best girls’ teams.
Northeast Iowa Conference: 5 p.m. Thursday at Charles City
Upper Iowa Conference: 4 p.m. Thursday at Calmar
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