DES MOINES - A year ago the Trojans' 4x100-meter relay squad came to the blue oval with visions of a state title.
And though entering with the third-fastest time in Class 3A, they walked away without a medal.
That disappointment fueled an offseason of extra time in the weight room, extended work on handoffs and a stronger push to recruit a senior speedster who had opted for baseball over track each spring before.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Kyle Stephenson anchors South Tama’s 4x100-meter relay team to victory in Class 3A competition Saturday at the Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships in Des Moines. The Trojans broke their school record for the fourth time in the last two weeks, winning the event in 42.87 seconds.
All those components came together Saturday in the form of a state title as South Tama County's Kaleb Davenport, Dylan Kalinay, Daryl Bidwell and Kyle Stephenson smashed their school record for the second day in a row and the fourth time in two weeks, clocking 42.87 seconds at the Iowa Co-Ed State Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium Saturday.
"Last year we were really trying to go for it. It was pretty disappointing not even making the finals," Bidwell said of the Trojans' 10th place finish in 2012.
"We pretty much set our minds that we were going to go for it this year and we didn't want to settle for anything less than that."
After losing last year's leadoff man Brody Boldt to graduation, the Trojans took their recruitment of Davenport up a notch - and in turn, the senior saw the opportunity available and swapped his glove for spikes.
"I just saw how good they did last year and I knew they were going to lose (Boldt) so I just came out," said Davenport, who joined three runners with well-rehearsed handoffs before developing his own with Kalinay.
"We just started to click and it felt really good."
The Trojans wish they could have clicked with Davenport sooner, though it was better late than never.
"We told him to go out every year, but I don't know why he never came out until now," Kalinay said. "He always regrets not going out (earlier)."
As the Trojans got their priorities and their handoffs in line, the quartet continued to cut time culminating with another .16 seconds off their school record preliminary mark from Friday to finish .23 seconds ahead of runner-up Bishop Heelan in Saturday's finale.
While their rapid rate of time drops may indicate the contrary, there was no quick road to success for the Trojans as STC coach George Kuhter saw his squad put in countless hours to develop into 3A's best and capture the program's first 4x1 title in nearly 25 years and the fourth title overall in Kuhter's 20 years with the school.
"The thing they have to understand is the consistency from the very first time they ran at the beginning of the year until now," Kuhter said.
"They just kept improving and improving with the weather. ... We just go out there and it's very blue-collar. We just do what we have to do. And when we do it, we do it well."
Though riding atop the Class 3A leaderboard for much of the season and winning races left and right, the Trojans stayed grounded through all the success - keeping their singular focus on the goal that eluded them the year before.
"We knew not to get our heads big or anything and not to expect this to come to us," Bidwell said.
"We had to work for it."
And Saturday's reward was definitely worth it. A reward so special that Stephenson, who finished sixth in the 200 finals (22.84) earlier in the afternoon, struggled to put into words.
"It's truly amazing ... you can't say much more than that."
South Tama seniors Clay Waterbury and Brady Ellenbecker also wrapped up their prep careers on the blue oval Saturday. Waterbury turned in a personal-best time of 2:02.89 in the 800 to finish 24th, while Ellenbecker, a four-time state qualifier, placed 18th in the 1,600 in 4:38.84.