Dean Nicholson is given a big retirement present - the Class 3A state track title
Not many coaches get to leave on their own terms.
But Dean Nicholson is one of the lucky few. The Storm Lake boys track and field coach, who has served in that capacity for 19 years, announced his retirement earlier this season.
His team wanted to send him off right - on top. They did, but barely.
Storm Lake proved that an individual cannot beat a team as Carroll star Adam Haluska gave the Tornadoes a close fight before the Tornadoes held on by 3 points to win the Class 3A state track and field title Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
Storm Lake ended up with 33 points to 30 for Carroll. Haluska scored 28 of those points.
"This has been their goal," Nicholson said. "Setting a goal and attaining it - that's what the state title means. This has been the talk all year long and it started last year. After the state meet last year, I think they felt they could do it then."
Nicholson downplayed any talk of a going away present.
"The most important thing was for the guys to win the meet," he said. "Just because it's our last meet as coaches ... our retiring should have nothing to do with what they're experiencing."
The Tornadoes needed to finish third or better in the final event - the 4x400 relay - in order to clinch the state crown.
The tandem of Kurt Hanna, Rory Fulcher, Jeff DeHaan and Justin Koeppe finished second with a time of 3 minutes, 24.05 seconds to wrap up the title.
"They knew they were going to run the best that they could run," Nicholson said of the quartet. "That's just the way they are. I think they had some idea, and they were nervous, but that's always the case at the state meet."
Storm Lake had two individual champions. Shane Maier won the shot put by throwing it 55 feet, 10 3/4 inches. Koeppe captured the 400 low hurdles with a time of 53.21 seconds. Koeppe had a scare in the preliminaries, stumbling over the second-to-last hurdle and falling down, but he got back up and managed to win his heat to qualify for the finals.
DeHaan, who had the fastest time in the preliminaries of the 110 high hurdles, finished third in the finals with a time of 15.22 seconds.
Koeppe placed fourth in the 200 meters with a clocking of 22.52 seconds. Haluska won that race in 21.56 seconds.
Rory Fulcher leaped 20-9 1/4 to finish fifth in the long jump.
Storm Lake's 4x100 relay tandem of Hanna, Fulcher, DeHaan and Mike Keller placed fifth in the finals with a clocking of 44.09 seconds. Webster City was the winner in 43.79.
The 4x200 relay team of Hanna, Fulcher, Bob Blanchard and Keller finished eighth in the finals with a time of 1:33.86.
The mile medley relay tandem of Keller, Blanchard, Scott Ellens and Tyler Youde finished 12th with a season-best time of 3:38.53.
Maier finished ninth in the discus with a throw of 152-1, while Chad Hotovec was 12th in 138-0. DeHaan finished 13th in the long jump with a leap of 19-10 1/2.
The 4x800 relay unit of Pete Harder, Tyler Radke, Tim Brink and Youde placed 18th with a time of 8:17.06.
Brink placed 19th in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:51.06.
Nicholson said there were some pleasant surprises and some that were not-so-pleasant.
"The entire two days was a roller-coaster," he said. "We had good things happen and we had some things that were not so good. Obviously, all of our places and the two wins were good. We also had some that didn't place that cut a lot of time. The 4x800 and the mile medley both did that."
Storm Lake won state track championships in 1987 and 1988 and was runner-up in 1986 and 1989.