BY ROB GRAY
DES MOINES — Ben Stutt of Monticello’s journey to a state track and field title began on sunless, snowy mornings.
“During basketball season I’d start lifting in the morning before school,” said Stutt, whose Class 2A state shot put championship throw of 56 feet, 6 1/4 inches Thursday at Drake Stadium helped propel the Panthers to a first-day points lead. “Real early.”
Stutt’s win, combined with second-place runs by the 3,200-meter relay team and freshman Ben Ahlrichs in the 3,200 meters, keyed a 29-point opening-day effort.
Fort Dodge St. Edmond — which spoiled Monticello’s hopes for a repeat title in the 4 x 800 — stands second with 26 points.
“We’ve got 12 events down here and we’re hoping to score as many points as possible,” said the Panthers’ defending 800-meter state champion and 4 x 800 anchorman, Noah Williams. “See where it ends up.”
Ahlrichs’ second-place time of 9:55.15 in the 3,200 set a team freshman record.
“I’m less tired than I expected I’d be, especially sprinting that last lap as fast as I could, giving it my all,” Ahlrichs said. “I’m pretty glad I did, though. The final sprint can save you, but it’s all about pacing yourself through the laps so you don’t kill yourself in the middle of the race.”
Monticello Coach Greg Williams called Ahlrichs’ performance “a pleasant surprise.”
“For a freshman to get runner-up down here is a great run,” Williams said.
Stutt was pleased to contribute his 10 points to the cause. The Panthers seek their third state title and first since 2007.
“All the points are adding up,” said Stutt, who described his state-winning effort as average. “It felt good to help the team out.”