SETTING THE BAR HIGH: Zahn perfect early, rides success to bronze in 3A high jump

DES MOINES – A year away from the big stage made an impression on Cal Zahn.

It made him realize that it was never going to happen again.

After failing to qualify for the Class 3A state high jump competition a season ago, Zahn certainly announced his return with authority yesterday during the opening day of the 2014 Iowa Co-ed State Track and Field Championships.

Meticulous as ever with his approach, Zahn – a Webster City junior – made it look easy early in the competition and surged into medal contention on his way to a third-place finish.

And just like that, the disappointment from 2013 evaporated.

“I’m pretty happy about (placing third) considering I didn’t make it to the meet last year,” Zahn said. “I’m pretty psyched about ending up in the top three in 3A.”

Zahn was the only WCHS medal winner on Thursday, but he positively won’t be the last. Sophomore Allie Flaws trucked down the straightaway on the blue oval at Drake Stadium and qualified for her second straight 100-meter dash final on Saturday.

“I’m really happy right now,” Flaws said. “I tried not to get as nervous as last year.”

WCHS also competed in the boys’ shuttle hurdle relay and had Cooper Jaycox in the boys’ 100.

The Lynx will take part in four more events today during Day 2. Kaylee Schnathorst and Carrie Gerdes will go to work in the girls’ shot put and long jump. Flaws and Gerdes will team up with Morgan Gourley and Hannah Harfst in the 4×100 prelims, and the Lynx boys’ team will also be in the 4×100 with Jaycox, Zahn, Tanner Hoveland and Cory Keenan.

Zahn was perfect during the early rounds of the high jump. He cleared 5 feet, 8 inches on his first attempt and then did the same when the bar was raised to 5-10, 6-0 and 6-2.

The clean jump at 6-2 was cause for a quick celebration as he exited the pit because it was then that he knew he was in the medals.

Zahn missed on all three attempts at 6-4.

“At 6-2 I knew I had the height, so I started worrying about the throw back,” he said. “That’s what got me at 6-4 because I didn’t concentrate on that enough.”

It’s been an up and down spring for Zahn, who has battled knee tendinitis throughout the season. But once that clears up he says he’ll begin preparing for his push towards gold in 2015.

“This gives me a pretty big confidence booster,” he said. “I’ll be working on my knee and hopefully I’ll be back to normal health by next year.”

WCHS boys’ head coach Tony Bussan says his high flyer was darned near perfect.

“It was a great day of jumping. He looked smooth and relaxed,” Bussan said. “I thought he handled the competition really well and it was great to see him enjoy the event.”

Flaws leaned across the finish line in 12.60 seconds in her 100 – good enough for second in the heat and fourth overall heading into the finals. She was eighth a season ago.

“My 100 was good … I set a new (personal record),” Flaws said. “And after the 100 the nerves were definitely better.”

She returned to the track several hours later to try to qualify for the 200 finals, but she had to settle for 14th place overall with a clocking of 26.68 seconds. But she was able to find the light at the end of the tunnel afterwards.

“It’s OK because I beat my (200) time from last year,” she said. “It was a good day.”

The Lynx boys’ shuttle hurdle relay – Hoveland, Dylan Fielder, Fernando Martinez and Tanner Hild – thought it was having a great day after it ran a 59.52 in the prelims, which would’ve placed it ninth overall.

But the school-record time was thrown out when WCHS was disqualified for leaving early. It was one of three 3A teams to be DQ’d.

“That happens down here,” Bussan said. “The kids gave a great effort and I’m proud of them.”

Jaycox placed 17th overall in the boys’ 100 field in 11.59 seconds.