DES MOINES — The high school state track and field meet is held at Drake Stadium.
It may as well be down the road at Adventureland, according to Ken Hopkins.
“It’s like a roller coaster,” said the boys’ coach at Linn-Mar High School. “You’ve got to ride it out through the ups and downs.”
Most of the “ups” in the Class 4A boys’ competition, it appears, will be enjoyed by the heavyweights from the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Based on seedings from last week’s district meets, it is quite possible that the MVC will sweep the top five spots in the big-school class.
“The Valley is incredibly tough,” said Cedar Rapids Kennedy Coach Brian White. “From top to bottom, it’s so solid.”
Iowa City West is the defending champion, and the Trojans are a slight favorite to hold off Linn-Mar and repeat. West is seeded to score in 14 events (including double points in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200) and has the top seed in the 800, Bailey Wetherell.
Linn-Mar counters with top seeds Perrion Scott in the 100, Josh Evans in the 1,600 and the 400- and 800-meter relays.
Cedar Falls, Iowa City High, Kennedy all are projected to score more than 40 points and comprise the next layer of contenders. Waterloo West also is capable of entering the top-five fray.
“We just want to score a half-point more than the second-place team,” said West Coach Brian Martz. “In 4A, you’ve got to have a strong, balanced team to go out there and push for a championship. You can’t just roll into the stadium with six great kids.
“You’ve got to take one event at a time, do what you can do and not worry about everybody else.”
Said Scott, the Lions’ sophomore sprinter who has developed into one of the state’s elite:
“We treat every meet as a track meet. It’s not too big, not too small.”
The strength of the league was reflected April 29, when Kennedy — a strong team, but in the shadow of West and Linn-Mar in the MVC — went to Muscatine for an invitational. It was Kennedy and seven Mississippi Athletic Conference teams. The Cougars won by more than 30 points.
Kennedy has title hopefuls in its shuttle hurdle relay, Willie Rhoads in the high jump and Famiek Cook and Derek Jacobus in the long jump.
City High is top-ranked in the medley relay, and Brook Price is No. 1 in the 3,200.
Cedar Falls has the top 1,600-meter relay.
The Metro carries other contenders like Prairie’s 1,600 relay, which struck gold at the Drake Relays, and Timauntay Jones of Jefferson in the 800.
Come Saturday afternoon, though, the race should come down to West and Linn-Mar.
“I think we’ll be better prepared than we were last year,” Hopkins said. “Our kids are older and more mature. We think it will be a back-and-forth battle.
“After each event, good or bad, you’ve got to go back to the (Drake) Fieldhouse and get ready for the next opportunity.”
And see where the roller coaster takes you next.
Bailey Wetherell, Brook Price, Cedar Falls, Derek Jacobus, Drake Stadium, Famiek Cook, Iowa City High, Iowa City West, Josh Evans, Linn-Mar, Perrion Scott, state track and field, Timauntay Jones, Waterloo West, Willie Rhoads