Kohut-Jackson gets her title

Joe RandlemanStaff Writer
Kohut-Jackson gets her title

DES MOINES - After several near misses, Ballard senior Abby Kohut-Jackson finally reached the pinnacle of competition in high school running events.

Top-5 and top-10 finishes in both in track and cross country happened in every event Kohut-Jackson competed in during all four years high school career. But a state championship had always eluded her - until now.

Kohut-Jackson claimed her state championship in the Class 3A girls’ 3,000-meter run at the 2016 state coed track meet held last Thursday through Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

After three years of running both the 1,500 and 800 at state, Kohut-Jackson decided to give the 3,000 a shot as a senior, and it certainly turned out to be the right move.

“I honestly just wanted to try it because I’ve never run it before,” Kohut-Jackson said. “I ran cross country, so it’s not like I haven’t run the distance before. I assumed I could be at least decent at it. Maybe not quite as good as the 1,500, but maybe better. I wanted to try and see.”

During Thursday’s 3A girls’ 3,000 race, Kohut-Jackson got out in front of the pack early and held her position until the seventh lap. Then Davenport Assumption teammates Joy Ripslinger and Julia Schumacher caught Kohut-Jackson and started to inch out in front of her.

But instead of fading Kohut-Jackson dug down deep and moved back in front by the start of the final lap. She let out a big smile when her name was called over the PA system as the lead runner during the final lap.

“I guess maybe I knew I was running a good race, but it didn’t really click that I could maybe win it and actually get that first place I’ve been striving for,” Kohut-Jackson said. “Then when I heard my name, I realized I was going to do everything I could to hold the lead - it kind of made me smile.”

Kohut-Jackson kept up that strong final push until crossing the finish line in 10 minutes, 8.29 seconds to beat Ripslinger’s 10:11.43 for the state title in the event.

“It feels so good,” Kohut-Jackson said. “This has been kind of a dream of mine since before I really knew a whole lot about running. I just thought ‘man, it’d be so cool to win state.’ Finally - and kind of unexpectedly I guess - that dream came true.”

Kohut-Jackson’s time broke her own school record in the 3,000 set earlier in the season at the Drake Relays. Before Kohut-Jackson came along, Ballard’s all-time 3,000 mark had been 10:49.90, set by Rachel Johnson in 1994.

“This was the breakout race for her,” Ballard head girls’ track coach Scott Barth said. “She entered the race loose and calm. She knew she wasn’t the favorite by any means, which helped her run her race without the pressure. She ran a smart race, kicked the last 300 meters and Ripslinger didn’t have an answer.”

Two days later Kohut-Jackson achieved the unique feat of winning one gold, silver and bronze medal apiece at state when she took second in the 1,500 and third in the 800.

Kohut-Jackson ran the 800 first on Saturday. She clocked in at 2:15.42 to edge out her own school record of 2:15.92 set the previous year at state, where she also placed third in 3A.

Ripslinger dominated the 800 with a state-record time of 2:07.51 and Schumacher took second in 2:14.57.

Later on Saturday, Kohut-Jackson clocked in at 4:41.27 in the 1,500. Ripslinger won in 4:39.03 and Marion’s Maddy Bach took third in 4:44 flat.

“I’m definitely very happy with this weekend,” Kohut-Jackson said. “I guess I was feeling pretty good going into both the 800 and 1,500, knowing I’d locked down that win the 3K.”

Her amazing performance over the three days at state left Kohut-Jackson with mixed emotions about the conclusion of her final state meet.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” Kohut-Jackson said. “I’m obviously very happy with my last state meet. But it will be very different not coming here every year. It’s probably time to start enjoying those memories I’ve had now that I don’t have any races to focus on.”

North Polk sophomore Maria Gorham will also have fond memories of the 2016 state meet.

Gorham competed in the maximum four events over the three-day stretch and she placed in every one of them. She came in third in the 3A girls’ high jump and helped the Comets take fifth in the 4 X 800, seventh in the sprint medley and eighth in the distance medley.

“It was more fun than last year,” said Gorham, who placed eighth in the open 400 in her only state event as a freshman. “I placed in more events and ran with a lot of really good runners.”

The high jump provided Gorham’s biggest highlight. She cleared five feet, five inches to beat her previous personal-best mark by an impressive three inches and come within one inch of the school record set by former Iowa State track athlete Jordon Andreassen.

“I was surprised,” Gorham said. I was thinking - Is this real? - because I’ve never gotten close to 5-5.”

Having to run in the 4 X 800 just before the high jump may have given Gorham the energy boost she needed to clear 5-5.

“I was on an adrenaline rush after the 4 X 800,” Gorham said. “I think that’s kind of what kicked in.”

Greene County’s Megan Durbin cleared 5-5 on the fewest attempts to win the 3A girls’ title in the high jump. Denison-Schleswig’s Sunday Faya had the second-fewest attempts to get over 5-5 as she earned the silver medal.

In the 3A girls’ 4 X 800, North Polk ran a time of 9:38.39 to break the school record it set earlier in the season by nine seconds. Sierra Lambert ran the opening leg, Gorham followed, Sophie Blanchard took the third leg and Amelia Lesher ran the anchor for North Polk.

“We all worked really hard for this,” Lesher said. “We’re all just super-excited with ending the track season this way.”

Rebecca Ley, Lambert and Rosa Camacho ran the first three legs for North Polk in the sprint medley on Saturday. Gorham then turned in an incredible :56.5 400 split on the anchor leg to help the Comets finish in a season-best time of 1:51.07.

“I think we ran our best,” Ley said. “There’s nothing more we can ask.”

The Comet girls’ distance medley team clocked in at 4:17.04 to just miss the school record set by Miranda Schouten, Katie Stafford, Casie Christensen and Dawn Gildersleeve in 2009. Rebecca Rimathe teamed with Gorham, Lambert and Lesher in running the distance medley for North Polk on Friday.

Amelia Lesher also fell just shy of placing for North Polk individually in the 1,500.

Lesher ran a school-record time of 4:52.93 to break Gildersleeve’s 4:54.47 mark set in 2010. Lesher was exhausted at the end of the race after beating her 2015 state time in the event by over 18 seconds.

“It was really hard, but I had to push through and just finish,” Lesher said. “I worked hard to get here and I wanted the work to pay off.”

Ballard had one other individual compete at state. Sophomore Emma Ray took 20th in the high jump after clearing 4-11.

The Bombers ended up seventh in the final 3A girls’ team standings at state with 24 points and North Polk took 20th with 13 points. Assumption won the 3A girls’ team title with 126 points and Pella came in second with a score of 79.5.

Individual 3A girls’ results - Ballard and North Polk

High jump - 3. Maria Gorham (NP), 5-5; 20. Emma Ray (B), 4-11.

3,000-meter run - 1. Abby Kohut-Jackson (B); 10:08.29.

4 X 800-meter relay - 5. North Polk (Sierra Lambert, Maria Gorham, Sophie Blanchard, Amelia Lesher), 9:38.39.

Distance medley relay - 8. North Polk (Rebecca Rimathe, Gorham, Lambert, Lesher), 4:17.04.

800-meter run - 3. Kohut-Jackson (B), 2:15.42.

Sprint medley relay - 7. North Polk (Rebecca Ley, Lambert, Rosa Camacho, Gorham), 1:51.07.

1,500-meter run - 2. Kohut-Jackson (B), 4:41.27; 9. Lesher (NP), 4:52.93.