Iola athletes punch tickets to state



May 22, 2021 - 2:39 PM

Iola High's Callie Murcko clears the pole vault bar in a meet earlier this season. Murcko qualified Friday for the state track meet. Photo by Richard Luken

PAOLA — Iola High’s track and field team faced some long odds to qualify athletes for the upcoming state meet in Wichita.

Miserable weather through the week made it essentially impossible for IHS athletes to get much practice prior to Friday’s Class 4A Regional in Paola.

“Our sand pits and runways were absolutely soaked the entire week,” head coach Dana Daugharthy said. 

Even worse, Iola junior standout Brett Willis — a state medal contender in four events — was sidelined during a 4×100-meter relay practice session Monday with a hamstring injury.

“We tried treating it as best as we could throughout the entire week, but when he tried to compete on Friday, he just could not get to full speed,” Daugharthy said. 

That left a small contingent of athletes competing in one of the toughest 4A regionals in the state.

So that’s where the fun begins.

Iola will send a squad of middle distance runners to Wichita on Friday, courtesy of their top-four finishes at the regional meet, hosted by Paola High School.

Iola High’s Jesse Taylor, shown at a track meet earlier this season, qualified for the state meet in both the 3200-meter run and as part of Iola’s 4×800-meter relay team.Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

Leading the charge is Iola’s Jesse Taylor, who narrowly missed out on a gold medal in the 3200-meter run, finishing second by less than a second to Labette County’s Alex Meister.

“Jesse really had a great race and did a great job pacing himself off of the Labette County kid,” Daugharthy said, noting most of the state qualifiers elsewhere in 4A are upperclassmen. He’s a sophomore. “This is a great accomplishment for such a young athlete. It is a well-deserved accomplishment because of his hard work ethic and drive for success.”

Senior Jack Adams, who qualified for state previously in the 3200-meter run and 4×800-meter relay, completed his distance trifecta Friday by taking fourth in the 1600-meter run.

“This shows two things,” Daugharthy said. “First, it demonstrates his range as a distance runner, but secondly and most importantly, it shows how much fight he has when he steps on the track. Jack is a competitor and this meet definitely demonstrated that.”

Speaking of the 4×800 squad, Taylor and Adams will be joined by Eli Adams and Riley Jay in Wichita, courtesy of their third-place finish at Friday’s regional.

The race was hotly contested, Daugharthy noted, with all six teams leading at one point or another.

Each of Iola’s quartet set a personal record as the squad completed a season-best time of 8 minutes, 34.24 seconds — a full 12 seconds faster than their previous mark. Their time ranks fifth in the state this year, “and within striking distance to place even higher,” Daugharthy said.