DES MOINES - There’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition.
That was the mood when North Polk junior Maria Gorham and Greene County’s Megan Durbin squared off for the Class 3A girls’ high jump championship at the state coed track meet held last Thursday through Saturday in Des Moines.
Gorham and Durbin had engaged in outstanding battles late in the season as the top two girls’ high jumpers in the entire state.
Last month, Gorham won the Drake Relays. Durbin — the defending 3A state champion — topped Gorham at the Heart of Iowa Conference meet four days later and then Gorham prevailed at the North Polk Invitational.
Both jumpers had peaked with a jump of five feet, seven inches entering Thursday’s state competition.
With everything on the line, Gorham turned in the best performance of her career at exactly the right time. She cleared jumps of 4-10, 5-0, 5-2, 5-4 and 5-6 on her first attempts to emerge as the front runner after Durbin needed three attempts to get over 5-6.
When it was time to jump 5-7, Gorham stepped up and again made it over the bar on her first attempt. Durbin followed suit, with the two embracing each other after each successful jump.
That set the bar at 5-8 — a height neither had cleared all season. This time Gorham missed on her first attempt and Durbin also couldn’t get over the bar.
On the second attempt, Gorham stepped up huge — starting off with a great stride then getting a tremendous lift to clear the bar by two inches.
“Her 5-8 jump was the best jump I have ever seen her execute,” North Polk head girls’ track coach Scott Huether said. “Her approach was perfect for that jump.”
When Gorham landed on the mat she immediately turned toward Huether, assistant coach Matt Overton and a large contingent of Comet faithful in the crowd and raised her arms in celebration.
“I was so excited,” Gorham said. “That would be a new record. A personal record — which is the school record — and I think it’s the state record too.”
The jump was indeed a new 3A state mark. After the jump Durbin was again there to embrace her rival.
“I love her, she’s so nice,” Gorham said. “We want each other to do the best we can do.”
“Maria is an amazing jumper and I am blessed to be able to compete against her,” Durbin said. “I appreciate the support she gives me at the track meets we share and it is always nice to see a familiar face when it comes to the bigger meets such as Drake Relays and state. I’m thankful to have gotten the opportunity to jump with Maria and to celebrate her success with her.”
Durbin still had two shots to match Gorham, but she was unable to get over the bar on either attempt to give Gorham the title.
With the bar moved up to 5-9, Gorham scratched, missed and then scratched again to end the event as the new 3A state champion and record holder.
“I don’t really believe it yet,” Gorham said immediately following the event. “I’m sure it’ll sink in in a few hours.”
The 5-8 jump was the best out of the girls’ high jumpers in all four classes at state.
Gorham had already competed in one event at state just minutes before the start of the high jump. She took 12th in the preliminaries of the 3A girls’ 200-meter dash with a time of 25.97 seconds.
“I did run an open 200 right before it,” Gorham said. “I think that kind of gave me a little boost.”
On Friday, Gorham got to celebrate another school record with teammates Eva Schoenberg, Macy Gill and Amelia Lesher. Those four individuals set a North Polk record in the distance medley relay, placing fourth in 3A with a time of 4:13.95.
Lesher ran a fantastic 800 on the anchor leg to get North Polk in position to place in the top five and set the new school mark.
“On the first lap I was trying to keep up with the girl in front of me, then over on the back stretch I heard someone yell ‘Amelia, run your race!’” Lesher said. “I knew when I was running this was going to be a really fast first lap — I don’t think I can keep the pace. Then when I heard that, I decided I need to rein it in a little bit and on the last lap, I was really able to kick it out.”
The new Comet record meant a lot to Gill. The senior runner had to sit out track last season after tearing her ACL.
“It was heartbreaking last year when I got hurt and wasn’t able to run,” Gill said. “I’m really glad that I recovered fast enough and I’m here today.”
Lesher added a sixth-place individual finish in the 1,500 on Saturday. Her time of 4:45.89 topped her 4:52.93 showing at last year’s state meet when she came in ninth.
“I’m really happy,” Lehser said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Lesher ended up placing in all three events she competed in at state. On Thursday, she joined up with Sophie Blanchard, Sierra Lambert and Grace Croat to place seventh in the 4 X 800 with a time of 9:49.74.
“I’ve learned down at state that the first leg of the 4 X 800 is huge,” Huether said. “You have to run a good first leg to put your team in position to compete, and Sophie did exactly what we needed. Her first leg was great and her 2:23 split was a personal record for her by three seconds. Grace had a great finish at the end of her leg to put Amelia in a great spot to anchor.”
On Friday Lambert, Blanchard and Schoenberg were joined by Kennedy Wendel in running a 19th-place preliminary time of 4:17.55 in the 4 X 400. Schoenberg, Lambert, Gill and Gorham placed 14th in the sprint medley relay Saturday with a time of 1:52.75.
Ballard freshman Ellie Twedt also competed in 3A girls’ competition at state. Twedt finished 17th in the 3,000 Thursday with a personal-record time of 11:07.75.
“Coming into the season she, like most high school runners, wanted to earn the honor of running on the blue oval,” Ballard head girls’ track coach Scott Barth said. “She accomplished that and will use it as a learning experience. She is a great young runner.”
North Polk ended up tying Mount Vernon for 10th in the final 3A girls’ team standings with 20 points. Davenport Assumption won the 3A team championship with 93 points.
Top 10 Class 3A girls’ team scores: 1. Davenport Assumption 93 points, 2. Pella 77, 3. Dubuque Wahlert 49, 4. Decorah 47, 5. Benton Community 44, 6. Crestwood 30, 7. Bishop Heelan Catholic 27, 8. ADM 25, 9. Carlisle 23, 10. (tie) North Polk and Mount Vernon 20.
Individual 3A girls’ results - Ballard and North Polk
High jump - 1. Maria Gorham (NP), 5-8*.
Sprint medley relay - 14. North Polk (Eva Schoenberg, Sierra Lambert, Macy Gill, Gorham), 1:52.75.
3,000-meter run - 17. Ellie Twedt (B), 11:07.75.
4 X 800-meter relay - 7. North Polk (Sophie Blanchard, Lambert, Grace Croat, Amelia Lesher), 9:49.74.
Distance medley relay - 4. North Polk (Schoenberg, Gill, Gorham, Lesher), 4:13.95.
200-meter dash (prelims) - 12. Gorham (NP), :25.97.
1,500-meter run - 6. Lesher (NP), 4:45.89.
4 X 400-meter relay (prelims) - 19. North Polk (Schoenberg, Lambert, Kennedy Wendel, Blanchard), 4:17.55.
*New 3A state record.