DES MOINES - West Marshall senior Justin Weitzell has heard the criticism.
One year after the Trojan boys track and field team hoisted the Class 2A team championship trophy, Weitzell said many thought this year's Trojan team would take a giant step back.
With just a few events entered at this year's Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships, those critics may have been right.
But that didn't stop Weitzell and the rest of the Trojan 4x100-meter relay team from turning some heads Friday. The foursome came into the weekend with the 17th best time in the event but advanced to the finals after a season-best time and sixth-place tally in the preliminaries.
"That was by far our best time of the season. We ran really well," said Weitzell, who did not run at state last year. "It means a lot because coming off a good team last year, people were saying we weren't going to do so good. Getting to the finals in this event means a lot to us. We have been working hard all season."
The other three members of the relay team were juniors Devin Chesler, Elijah Streeter and Duncan Ferch. The personal-best time was clocked at 44.25 seconds, which was .4 hundredths of a second behind third-place Council Bluffs St. Albert and 2 hundredths of a second behind fifth-place Bondurant-Farrar.
"It is exciting and it is fun being down here," said Chesler, who ran in the shuttle hurdle relay at last year's state meet. "We worked hard for this. It feels really good. It is awesome to finish in the top eight."
There were four other area entries in the boys' Class 2A division Friday.
West Marshall's Colby Dunn and South Hardin's Bryce Zeisneiss both competed in the discus, while East Marshall's distance medley was in action as well.
Zeisneiss had the best finish of the day following his 10th place tally. He entered with the third best qualifying throw but a tough field was too hard to overcome Friday. His best throw went 150 feet, 5 inches and he needed 153-8 to advance to the finals.
Devonte Merrill of Monticello won the event with a 165-11, while four others threw past 160 feet. Dunn marked all three of his throws but finished in 22nd after tossing a best-throw of 121-11.
Zeisneiss got better with each throw, starting with 138 and finishing with the 150-5. The second toss before was marked at 148-8.
The Mustangs distance medley foursome consisted of junior Freddy Artner, senior Walker Steward, junior Zach Rubenbauer and junior Ben Terrones. The squad crossed the line in 15th overall with a time of 3:42.37.
Monticello also won the medley relay with a time of 3:32.32 and Dyersville Beckman took second with a 3:35.59.
Both Ferch and Streeter thought the Trojans' personal-best time would be good enough to advance. The foursome watched the other heats contently and eventually got the thumbs up from their coaches that they had officially finished in the top eight.
Ferch said just getting to the finals was a success. Streeter though has decided to change up the team goal a bit.
"I feel satisfied that we are going to qualify," Streeter said after the race. "Getting there was our goal. Now we can improve our goal and get into the top four and do even better."
The finals of the 4x100 relay in all four classes will kick off with Class 1A at 3:20 p.m. today.