After a chaotic day that featured more drama than anyone associated with Dowling Catholic track and field could’ve imagined, the championship celebration felt that much sweeter.
The Maroons clinched their first Class 4A boys team title in program history with 93 points, toppling runner-up Iowa City City High and third-place Ankeny. That fact alone made Saturday an unforgettable affair. But pair that with the situation distance runner Jackson Heidesch endured — a collision, a fall, a disqualification and ultimately, a re-run — and this will be a meet remembered for quite a while in Maroons history.
“I’ll put it in one phrase I like to use all the time. It pretty much sums up life as well as running,” Heidesch said. “The lowest lows make for the highest highs.”
Long before any controversy unfolded, Dowling stared at a climb up the 4A ladder that offered little evidence a state title was within reach. Even with plenty of heavy hitters still to run, the Maroons began the day in the third place — 14.5 points behind leader City High. Given the Little Hawks’ depth across the board, Dowling needed a strong closing push to emerge victorious.
After the Maroons’ runner-up finish in the 800-meter sprint medley relay, Heidesch locked in for the 800-meter run around 11:30 a.m. One of the state’s top distance runners took the inside lane early, jockeying for position with City High’s Ammon Smith. Heidesch initiated contact first, only for Smith to return contact from behind in what meet officials determined was interference.
Heidesch went down and spilled across three lanes. The race kept going as the Dowling standout tried to process what had just unfolded. He eventually got up and finished the race in last pace.
“The 800 is always physical. I’ll say that right away,” Heidesch said. “I tried to get out in the first 150 meters, and I tried to give Ammon a swift pass. He held the inside pretty hard. He just held his ground, and maybe he overreacted a little bit.
“But it’s that racing mentality. I don’t blame the guy. Stuff just happens — and maybe he overreacted a little bit and got a little too emotional — but I don’t know. There’s not much else to say. I respect the guy, and he’s one of my good friends. No hard feelings toward him.”
Roughly an hour after the race, the Iowa High School Athletic Association announced that “as a result of ruled interference” from Smith, Heidesch would be awarded a re-run at the end of the day. Smith was subsequently disqualified from the race and the rest of Saturday’s events. He was scheduled to anchor the Little Hawks’ 4×400 relay team. Heidesch’s re-run — which he delivered only about 90 minutes after winning the 1,600 title — gave him a third-place finish in the 800.
For a minute, it looked as if Heidesch’s re-run could decide the team race. But the Maroons eliminated any doubt there after a pair of riveting runs from speedster Mikey McClain. The standout sprinter set state records in the 100-meter dash (10.33) and 200-meter dash (20.97), essentially wrapping up the Dowling title. McClain helped propel the Maroons to a win in the 4×100 relay for good measure.
A day that began with turbulence ended with jubilation.
“Winning a state championship with my guys — the first one in Dowling history — it means the world to me and my teammates,” Heidesch said.
Plenty of hardware handed out elsewhere
On the girls side, Waukee Northwest cruised to the 4A title behind seven top-five finishes. The Wolves rolled with 70 points and zapped all drama from this team race early on Saturday.
The same can be said for Solon, which took home the Class 3A girls title with a staggering 84 points. Mid-Prairie will bring another team title back to eastern Iowa as well, grabbing the Class 2A championship with 65 points. Nashua-Plainfield owned Class 1A with 59 points.
The rest of the boys end looked like this:
3A: Dallas Center-Grimes (73 points)
2A: Spirit Lake (92.5 points)
1A: New London (68 points)
A shuttle hurdle stunner
What seemed to be one of the safest bets entering this state tournament was Waukee Northwest’s shuttle-hurdle relay team. The Wolves’ quartet of Natalie Harris, Faith Millsap, Camryn Weers and Iowa State commit Mackenzie Carney owned the state’s top time this season, which came in a dominating performance at the Drake Relays. That showing helped Carney earn the Relays’ outstanding performer award at Drake Stadium last month.
This time, though, Dowling Catholic wasn’t having it.
The Maroons upset Waukee Northwest in Saturday’s 4A shuttle hurdle race and set a state record in the process (1:00.61). That time was more than a whole second faster than what Dowling ran at Drake.
Shockingly, the race wasn’t even really that close. The quartet of Olivia Kramer, Ruby Leman, Alex Gaskell and Esaba Okwaramoi was nearly two whole seconds faster than Waukee Northwest, which finished second in 1:03.60.
While the Drake Relays aren’t always an exact indicator of who will emerge with state titles later in the spring, the event’s proximity to the state meet results in a lot of athletes pairing white flags with high school championships.
Not here, though. Credit the Maroons for writing a different story the second time around.
Audrey Biermann puts final stamp on decorated high school career
It’s been quite the ride for Biermann at Western Dubuque, having morphed into one of the state’s most dominant track athletes. Saturday marked the final day of her high school career, and she didn’t disappoint.
The Iowa track and field signee anchored the Bobcats’ win in the 3A 800-meter sprint medley relay, and set a 3A state record in the process. The quartet of Biermann, Sammy Recker, Ava Ramler and Brynn Walters finished in 1:45.58 to top the old mark of 1:46.46.
It’s the second 3A record Biermann set this week, having done the same in the 400-meter dash on Thursday. Biermann then added a 100-meter title and set a state meet record in the 200-meter race later on Saturday to wrap the whole thing up. She finished with three individual titles and one relay title on the weekend.
Not a bad way to go out at all.
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.