Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln honors late teammate with track meet victory

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — When the meet ended, the Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln girls had an extra pep in their step. More so than the average meet victor and perhaps more so than at any point the rest of the season.

That’s because they were running for former teammate, Merzedes Hart, who passed away on Jan. 14, 2017. She was honored at the girls A.L./T.J. Invitational at Gale Wickersham Stadium on Thursday night. The former multi-sport athlete at A.L. was hit by a car at age 19 in her first year running track at UNO.

With only the 1,600 relay remaining, the Lynx led Glenwood in team scoring by four points, setting up a final race that would decide the meet on senior night. A.L. came in second and the Rams third.

“I think it was a special one for them, they got really motivated by thinking about Merzedes Hart,” A.L. coach Don Schwartz said. “For the girls who are still in the program who knew her, that was a special moment.”

The second-place finish gave Abraham Lincoln the team title with 115 points. Glenwood was second in team scoring with 109 points, followed by Sioux City Heelan (105), Treynor (95) and Lewis Central (75).

Trailing heading into the third leg, senior Hayley Hartman hit another gear to overcome Glenwood’s Grace Presley and created breathing room before handing it off to Lexi Thomas for the final 400.

Harlan won the race in 4:11.40, but the Lynx beat their season-best time of 4:25.60 by running 4:20.49, topping the third-place Rams by over a second. It was the first time this year that A.L. ran a relay of just seniors, all girls who knew Hart before she became a Maverick.

Having just completed the 400 hurdles, Hartman considered sitting out the final race before being told how close the team scoring was.

“It was team-first, I definitely was tired,” Hartman said. “Seeing (them honor) Merzedes Hart obviously made a difference. We really felt her there, I think we all did.”

A.L. junior Darby Thomas led the Lynx with wins in the 100, the long jump and the 100 hurdles. She ran a 12.31 in the 100, setting the mark for the fastest time in Iowa by beating the 12.36 she ran earlier this year. She also set a track and meet record in the long jump with a leap of 18-7.25, the second best mark in the Iowa and her best this season.

After a sunny day with highs in the 50s, Thomas expects to continue to set new records as the season progresses.

“(The weather was) pushing everyone,” Thomas said. “It’s getting everyone excited to be able to run in actual sun and not in rain and gross stuff and this being Merzedes’ race, we were all really motivated.”

“It was our best overall performance of the season,” Schwartz said. “I think we probably left a few points out on the track and the field but for the most part I think this was maybe the start of something bigger.”

The Glenwood girls, trying to win their third meet in a row, were satisfied with a day that saw a number of personal records, including Kate Kaufman’s time of 5:23.04 in the 1,500 and the time of 4:21.95 in the 1,600 relay.

“It was just exciting, it was fun,” Glenwood coach Cory Faust said. “Credit to A.L., they ran a great meet tonight and they got some really talented girls. It’s fun to be in the hunt and compete.

“If these girls stay positive and keep trying to get better it’s going to be a fun last four weeks of the season.”

Multiple meet records were set individually, an expected result of an invitational that’s just three years old. Sioux City Heelan set meet records in the sprint medley relay and the 3,200 relay, while Madison Jochum and Amber Aesoph set meet records for the Crusaders in the 800 and the 1,500, respectively.

The Council Bluffs Lewis Central team of Kortnie Getzschman, Emily Merksick, Maegan Holt and Megan Witte set a new meet record in the 400 relay with a time of 52.17, and teammate Lauren Payne did the same in the shot put with a throw of 40-6.

Payne also beat the meet record in the discus, but was out-done by Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson senior Josephine Starner, who set a meet and track record with a throw of 132-10.

Starner left immediately following the discus to go play soccer, but throwing coach Makenna Durham said Starner is hungry to show more.

“She’s really gunning for the school record (134-7), that’s her big disappointment right now, she really wants to break that record,” Durham said. “It’s going to be minor fixes that does it for her. She’s got the ability.”

A.L./T.J. Invitational

At Wickersham Stadium

Team scoring: 1, C.B. Abraham Lincoln 115; 2, Glenwood 109; 3, Sioux City Heelan 105; 4, Treynor 95; 5, C.B. Lewis Central 75; 6, Logan-Magnolia 74; 7, C.B. Thomas Jefferson 62.5; 8, Harlan 45.5; 9, Fremont Mills 30; 10, C.B. St. Albert 26; 11, Heartland Christian 3.

Event winners: Shot put: 1, Lauren Payne, Lewis Central, 40-6. Discus: 1, Josephine Starner, Thomas Jefferson, 132-10. Long jump: 1, Darby Thomas, Abraham Lincoln, 18-7.25. High jump:1, Sienna Black, Treynor, 5-1. 100: 1, Darby Thomas, Abraham Lincoln, 12.31. 200: 1, Caitlyn Jones, Thomas Jefferson, 26.32. 400: 1, Violet Lapke, Logan-Magnolia, 1:02.91. 800: 1, Madison Jochum, Sioux City Heelan, 2:20.38. 1,500: 1, Amber Aesoph, Sioux City Heelan, 4:57.52. 3,000: 1, Greichaly Kaster, Harlan, 11:34.00. 100 hurdles: 1, Darby Thomas, Abraham Lincoln, 15.92. 400 hurdles: 1, Chloe Hansen, Harlan, 1:08.09. 400 relay:1, Lewis Central (Kortnie Getzschman, Emily Merksick, Maegan Holt, Megan Witte) 52.17. 800 relay: 1, Treynor (Noel James, Maddie Shipley, Kennedy Elwood, Megan Carley) 1:52.02. 1,600 relay: 1, Treynor (Noel James, Maddie Shipley, Chloe Gregory, Megan Carley) 4:11.40. 3,200 relay: 1, Sioux City Heelan (Hannah Hutchinson, Emma Hutchinson, Annie Jensen, Amber Aesoph) 9:58.79. Sprint medley relay: 1, Sioux City Heelan (Elsy Meis, Katie Rizk, Brooke Doohen, Madison Jochum) 1:51.72. Distance medley relay: 1, Glenwood (Lauren Becker, Grace Presley, Abby McIntyre, Danielle Hardcastle) 4:35.13. Shuttle hurdle relay: 1, Abraham Lincoln (Jocelyn Hendrix, Darby Thomas, Taylan Keefer, Hayley Hartman) 1:09.61.

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