The list of Class 1A schools with both its boys and girls shuttle hurdle relay teams departing for the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships this week tops out at eight.
There are plenty of challenges facing track and field teams at some point, at the 1A level maybe even more.
In that group of eight is a team that has no home track and it's hurdle work at home consists of putting up a pair of hurdles in the gym.
T-R PHOTO BY MARK PAWLAK
Both of GMG’s shuttle hurdle relays have qualified for the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships. Representing the Wolverines at state are from left: Melody Beane, Madelyn Newcomb, Heather Brittenham, Mikaella Koster, Sara Hinson, Emily Havelka, Greyson Fraser, Austin Groth, Kyle Barloon, Blane Anderson and Devon Schuett.
What it doesn't have has not been a deterrent to GMG with hurdle events making up five of its seven combined entries for the state championships.
"It's awesome having both make it," said GMG senior Emily Havelka. "I've always have wanted to take the shuttle hurdle down to state. I think because we don't have hurdles at our school to have two shuttle hurdle teams, it's even more exciting."
The Wolverine boys have an individual qualifier in the 110-meter hurdles in Austin Groth to go with its shuttle hurdle team. The GMG girls are taking to Des Moines Havelka in both the 100 and 400 hurdles and its shuttle hurdle relay.
"It's quite amazing in my opinion we are able to do the three hurdle events at state with no track and not really a place to do a lot of practicing on them," said GMG girls head coach Jon Reed. "Getting to the state meet shows the dedication and hard work the girls put in."
Groth has the No. 3-qualifying time for the 110s.
"Usually we don't do much hurdling when we practice at our school," Groth said. "Two hurdles in the gym doesn't do a whole lot. That's pretty much the extent of what we do at our school."
"There's a couple of us that have been on shuttles all four years," he added. "We've had the goal (of both going) for awhile.
"Especially it being a hurdling event, it's kind of rare I think."
Practice time on the hurdles often comes down to going to a neighboring school's track whether it be on a Saturday, a day off or an early dismissal. Or in the case of Havelka, just after GMG practice is over.
The Wolverines swept the shuttle hurdle relay titles at Thursday's state-qualifying meet in Grundy Center after both coming in as the No. 1 seeds.
"I would have to agree we have some pretty unique practice situations," said GMG boys head coach Mike Pierson. "It's not a good thing to be hurdling on the football field on grass so we end up doing two hurdles max in the gym most of the time. Once in a while we'll be in the hallways and can set up a third hurdle, but there's some issues with that.
"It's been interesting, but the kids have always handled it real well. They work as hard as they have to get better."
The boys - Devon Schuett, Blane Anderson, Kyle Barloon and Groth - are seeded inside the top eight with their sights set on bringing home medals.
"At districts we ran our best time, if we can do that again, we have a chance to place at state," Pierson said, "but you've got to get through prelims. We're cautiously optimistic I guess you could say."
The Wolverine girls shuttle hurdle - Heather Brittenham, Mikaella Koster, Sara Hinson and Havelka - know they can drop time off their state-qualifying mark.
"They ran close to their season-best, not quite but up there close," Reed said. "It didn't get us the best seed for state, but we're there and anything can happen. The goal is to get there then run your best times."
Havelka is the girls' school recordholder in both the 100 and 400 hurdles. She broke her 400 mark in running 1 minute, 7.16 seconds at the state-qualifying meet.
Havelka, seeded seventh in the 100 and 11th in the 400, finished 12th in the 400 and 20th in the 100 at last year's state championships.
"Running there last year, it made me want to push even harder to make it in more events," Havelka said, "and set my goals even higher."
Groth has eyes on the GMG school record in the 110s, a mark held by his uncle.
"Austin's been a very good hurdler, one of the best I've ever had at GMG," Pierson said. "If you take his state-qualifying meet time and knock off the fully automatic he would be 15.13 and the school record is 15.05. He's got a shot at it."
Groth was five hundredths of a second out of qualifying for the finals last year at state in the 110s, finishing 10th.
"Last year at districts I ran my season best and then I went down to state and ran just under four-tenths faster," Groth said. "Anything can happen down there, especially in hurdles. I'm going after the (school) record."
GMG's Greyson Fraser is in both the open 100 and 200 and his top seed of the pair is entering the 100 prelims 10th.
"Greyson's just had a great year," Pierson said. "After how he came on at the end of last spring I knew he had a shot for state this year. He's been so consistent all year."