2021 Benton 4x800 State qualifiers

From left to right: Benton junior Abby Rinderknecht, senior Jaden Thys, senior Hailee Ricklefs and freshman Jaida Lyons will represent the Bobcats on the Blue Oval this Thursday, qualifying for State with a first place finish in Pella’s qualifying Meet last week.

During Marty Thomae’s tenure with Benton track and field, no other event has qualified for State more than the 4x800 relays. Seniors Jaden Thys and Hailee Ricklefs had both been on the last two 4x8 in 2018 and 2019. After 2020’s season was cancelled, they wanted to keep the tradition alive and well for Benton.

“All my previous years running high school track we’ve made it to State,” Thys said. “It’s what’s made my high school track career fun and I really wanted to experience that again with the 4x8. It’s a hard race, but it’s really rewarding when you’re able to be successful with it.”

The relay had two open spots this season, which were easily filled with fellow cross country runners Jaida Lyons and Abby Rinderknecht. Thomae coached all four girls this cross country season and saw potential for the event to reach State even in a year the Bobcats faced inexperience and youth in its program. Some bumps in the road this season led Thomae to sit down with the girls and drive the point across that they were very capable of reaching the Blue Oval if they ran well together.

“Early on, I thought we should be running faster than we were,” Thomae said. “All four were talented runners this cross country season. If they can run a 5K, each of them should be successful with an 800 each.”

The talk worked. Their times dropped and the girls put together a 10:16.55 to win their state qualifying meet in Pella on Thursday and automatically qualify for State once more.

“I was super excited when we finished,” Thys said. “I really wanted to go with these three girls. It took a little time for us to find a groove, but I’m proud of us staying with our goal. It’s rewarding to see our hard work pay off.”

Their 4x8 is seeded 16th by time heading into their final run of the season. Thomae noticed the relays seeded before them have very close times, so outperforming their seeded times is a goal.

“There’s a couple of teams running around 10:14 and we’ve run 10:13 this season,” Thomae said. “We feel we have a shot of being very competitive for a top eigh finish.”

“First and most importantly, we each want to run a PR at State,” Thys added. “We want to beat our heat and place higher than we were ranked.”

Class 3A’s 4x8 races are scheduled to begin at approximately 11:45 p.m. on Thursday.

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