DES MOINES — Pick a distance. Any distance.
One hundred meters, on polyurethane? Sara Stoakes is a state champion.
Four thousand meters, on grass? She’s golden there, too.
Anything in between? She’s money.
Throw in some hurdles, just for fun? Why not?
Plain and simple, Stoakes possesses range that borders on absurd.
“It still amazes me. I can’t explain it,” said Kent Hanser, Stoakes’ track coach at North Tama High School. “She adjusts, she competes and she doesn’t like to lose to anyone.”
She rarely does.
At last year’s state track meet, Stoakes won the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races and anchored the winning sprint medley relay as the Redhawks compiled a ridiculous 110 points and won the Class 1A title. Five months later, she captured the individual title at the state cross country meet.
How does she do it?
“I never had anybody tell me I couldn’t,” she said.
Hanser said, “She has great foot speed for the sprints and the willpower and training to go longer. No matter the length of the race, she knows how to run and gets to the (finish) line the quickest way she can.
When Stoakes arrives at a meet, it’s rarely a question of whether she’ll win, but what she’ll win.
According to Quik Stats Iowa, she is rated No. 1 in Class 1A in the 100 meters (12.25 seconds), 200 meters (26.25), 400 meters (59.11) and 800 meters (2:11.25). She’s second in the 400 hurdles, which she just began trying this spring, and third in the 1,500.
In all classes, she’s in the top eight in four events. She’ll compete in three of them — the 100, 800 and 400 hurdles — at the Drake Relays, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at Drake Stadium.
North Tama is a small school. The Redhawks run on a lime track that becomes greasy when it rains heavily. But competing at a small school has its advantages.
“At a bigger school, they probably would kind of discourage me to run cross country,” Stoakes said. “They’d say, ‘You’re a sprinter.’ ”
She is a sprinter. She is a distance runner. And, now, she’s a hurdler. She took up the novelty this spring, just for kicks.
“I just wanted to run something else at Drake,” she said. “When I run the hurdles, I feel like I’m a freshman all over again.”
North Tama won the last three 1A titles behind Stoakes and the Dinsdale twins — Blaire and Brooke now are freshmen at the University of Nebraska.
“It’s weird not having them around,” Stoakes said. “We felt if we threw any relay together, we could win anything.”
“Before, I was in their shadow. Now, there’s a little more responsibility and pressure on my shoulders. It’s kind of fun to be the leader now.”
Stoakes will follow the Dinsdales to the Big 12 Conference next year. She has signed at Kansas State University, where she will major in animal science.
“The team really made me happy,” Stoakes said. I really connected with them. I felt like they actually cared.”
After Drake, Hanser will compose a state-meet itinerary for his ace. It won’t be an easy task. There are so many options.
“I want to run the 400 for sure,” Stoakes said. “The 200 probably. Maybe the 800 or 100 or 400 hurdles. We’ll see how it works out, I guess.”
More than likely, it will end with another gold rush.