DES MOINES – Mike Parker counts his team’s streak of brilliance not by meets, but by days.
“We’re at 1,455 days now,” said Parker, girls’ track coach at Iowa City West, on Monday. “I’m very proud of this streak and hope we get to keep it going.”
It will be a challenge this weekend.
West begins pursuit of its fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship Thursday at Drake Stadium, and probably does so as somewhat of an underdog.
Waukee, Iowa City High, Sioux City East and West Des Moines Dowling are projected to finish ahead of the Women of Troy, based on regional results.
“We had an average performance at regionals,” Parker said. “It wasn’t a great day by any means.”
Three great days will be necessary to retain the crown and extend a remarkable streak.
The last time West has been beaten in a scored meet was the 2005 state championships. Since then, every time the Women of Troy have gotten on the bus after a meet, they’ve taken a trophy or plaque or some other title memento home with them.
“It’s been an amazing run,” said Nichole Engelhardt, a senior distance runner. “To go an entire career, and to say we’ve never lost … that would be quite an accomplishment. We have one more meet to go to make history.”
West’s run has come without a bevy of superstars. Junior sprinter/long jumper Jessica Gehrke is an exceptional talent. Other than that, the titles have been a result of depth and balance.
It is a team with an evolving identity. When Parker arrived, West was known for its distance runners. Then, its field events. Now, the sprinters have become the headliners.
Parker credits West’s success to his athletes’ willingness to work. And to his assistants.
“When you qualify for state in all 19 events, you sure don’t do it alone,” he said.
Some programs put special weight on certain meets. For West, every meet is a red-letter meet.
“We take every meet seriously,” Engelhardt said.
To do otherwise, Parker said, would be a disservice.
“We want to give each meet its due respect,” he said. “Whether it’s Forwald or the Prairie Relays or Muscatine or Fort Madison or state, we want to treat each meet with respect and put ourselves in a position to win it.
“I don’t care if Drake is coming up or if we have two meets in three days. History doesn’t record excuses. It just records the winners.”
The Women of Troy want to etch themselves in the record books once more this weekend. They want to become the first big-school team to win four state titles in a row. They want to join Atlantic (2A, 1998-2001) and Tipton (2A, 2004-07) as the only back-to-back-to-back-to-backers of all time.
It’s going to be a challenge.
“Waukee has as many stars as I’ve seen from one team,” Parker said. “They and Sioux City East are star-heavy, and (City High) and us aren’t as top-loaded. It should make for some great competition Saturday afternoon.”