DES MOINES — Cade Cleaveland didn't go out for track as a freshman at Riverside High School. East Mills' Nick Pittmon competes in the Corner Conference, which had never produced a state champion in the 100 meters.
Both athletes beat the odds and capped their seasons with state championships on Saturday in the Class 1-A state track meet at Drake Stadium.
Cleaveland held off Trent Verwers of Martensdale-St. Marys, 1:56.56 to 1:57.01, to win the 800 meters for his first state title. Pittmon captured the 100 in 11.38, just ahead of runner-up Meliek Meyer of Lynnville-Sully (11.47). The Wolverines speedster just missed a second win, settling for second in the 200 to Pekin's Bryce Sines, 22.78 to 22.81.
Those were western Iowa's Class 1-A boys victories as the state track meet wrapped up in front of 8,819, bringing the three-day total to a record 35,835.
Cleaveland's victory helped Riverside vault to fourth in the final team standings with 34 points. Manson-Northwest Webster won with 53, followed by Earlham (41) and Lisbon (39). Three other WI schools finished in the top 10: Council Bluffs St. Albert (seventh, 27), Treynor (eighth, 25) and East Mills (10th, 22).
Cleaveland went straight to the front in the 800, a strategy he said he prefers. He held a slim lead at the 400 mark, in just over 57 seconds.
For most of the final lap, including the entire homestretch, Martensdale's Verwers was lurking over his right shoulder. But Cleaveland never allowed him to pass.
“I saw him on the big screen,'' he said. “I was kind of stressing when I saw him. But I was like, ‘I've gotta keep it tough and finish as fast as I can.' ''
Cleaveland was asked how he kept his form together under so much pressure.
“My training and my dedication,'' he said. “I've been wanting to win this race at state all year long, and to come out and get it feels awesome.''
Lisbon's Conner Smock, who won his fourth 3,200 and third 1,600 during the weekend, didn't run a fast enough time at the state-qualifying meet to earn a spot in the faster of two heats. He clocked 1:57.76 in the first heat and then watched as Cleaveland and Verwers bested him.
Smock immediately sought Cleaveland out and congratulated him at the end of the race.
“I was kind of wanting to be in the same heat with him so we could push each other,” Cleaveland said. “He's a great sport.”
Cleaveland said he didn't go out for track as a freshman because he “got really lazy.” He said he spent his sophomore year “shaking the rust off,” before finishing ninth in the 1,600 last year.
A second-place finish in the state cross country meet last fall made him hungry for track.
“That really upped my dedication and want,” said Cleaveland, who will run at Iowa Western next year.
Cleaveland returned to finished third in the 1,600 behind champion Smock of Lisbon. Four other western Iowa athletes placed in the race: Andrew Thompson of Nishnabotna (fifth), John Gunderson of Riverside (sixth), Casey Cruickshank of Sidney (seventh) and Josh Sindelar of Council Bluffs St. Albert (eighth).
East Mills' Pittmon finished fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 last year. He entered the weekend believing it was his time.
“I knew I had to get the job done because all of my friends and family and teammates were really cheering me on today,'' he said. “I didn't want to let anyone down.”
Pittmon said he got out of the blocks well and felt in control of the race the entire way. he was asked what the anticipation felt like with about 20 meters to go.
“It feels amazing, because you know that no one's going to pass you at that point,'' he said.
St. Albert ended its meet by placing third in the 1,600 relay. Matt Vermillion, Cole Herr, Connor Thomas and Tucker Culjat ran a 3:31.85. Manson-Northwest Webster won in 3:27.04.
The Falcons entered the week with team title hopes, so the final result was a bit disappointing.
“We just didn't take advantage of some opportunities,'' St. Albert coach Mike Kayl said. “But you get down here, and the competition, everybody's gunning for the same thing.”
Western Iowa boys earned six other medals in 1-A on Saturday:
Sidney's Cruickshank placed third in the 800, while the Treynor shuttle hurdle relay and Logan-Magnolia 400 relay both placed fifth.
Sixths went to Stanton's Greg Focht in the 100 and A-H-S-T's Josh Bryant in the 110 high hurdles. Treynor's Connor Meis finished just behind Bryant in the high hurdles in seventh.
* * *
Former Kuemper star Stipe enters hall
Former Carroll Kuemper star Dani Stipe was inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union's track and field hall of fame on Saturday.
Stipe joined Jenna Caffrey of Burlington and current Nebraska athlete Ashley Miller of Tipton.
A 2006 Kuemper graduate, Stipe won eight state titles — four in her senior year as she won the 100, 200, long jump and 1,600 relay. She was a four-time Missouri Valley Conference champion at Northern Iowa.
Miller was unbeaten in 15 state track races. She is a four-time conference champion at Nebraska, where she won the 800 and 1,500 last week at the Big Ten Championships in Madison, Wis.
Contact the writer: