CEDAR FALLS - Sam Holtz is starting to make a name for herself before the outdoor track and field season begins.
The South Tama junior thrower hasn't even participated in her event that sent her to Des Moines for the state meet last May. That hasn't stopped Holtz from improving her shot put during the preseason indoor meets.
Holtz set a personal record of 34-feet, 11 inches at the Lady Trojans first meet, which was last week at Iowa State University. That performance was only a glimmer of what happened Monday afternoon at the UNI-Dome on the University of Northern Iowa campus.
South Tama junior Sam Holtz throws the shot put 37-feet, 11 inches on her last attempt of the finals Monday at the Dickinson Relays. Holtz’s throw was a personal best by more than two feet. It also placed her third in the event.
Holtz threw 35-8 on her second throw of the day, improving her personal best by nine inches. That throw propelled her to the finals of a large meet filled with many large Class 4A schools.
"I took that strength and conditioning class with (Nate) Van Dyke, so I'm pretty sure that helped," Holtz said of her improvement from a year ago. "Last year I also worked with my cousin a lot and she helped me a lot."
In the finals, Holtz launched her final throw well past the 35-foot mark. Her official mark was 37-11 and her expression after the distance was announced said it all.
"That was awesome," Holtz said. "It's weird going all the way from 34 to 37. It felt good. It felt like I didn't even throw it, like it felt flawless. I don't know. It just felt good. Once I saw where it landed, I knew it was far."
Holtz finished third in the competition. That finish earned her a spot on the shot put awards stand.
"That was such a pleasant surprise last night," STC coach George Corum said. "She's been working so hard for this. We're trying to tweak a few things for her. She senses that she can do this. It was pretty rewarding and it capped the night. Having that medalist was exciting."
While Holtz and Corum were pleasantly surprised with the 37-11 mark, they both want more. They aren't satisfied with the new personal best.
"After the meet, I was talking to her and we were talking about having the 38-foot mark as a goal," Corum said. "Now, I think we need to re-evaluate this and go for the 40-foot mark. Right now, she's like 11th in the entire state and I think fourth or fifth in our class. That's pretty exciting."
Although Holtz was the only medalist at the Dickinson Relays at the UNI-Dome, the Lady Trojans had several other good performances at the meet. The next two-highest finishes came in the field events.
In the high jump, freshman Madie Bacon cleared 4-8, which tied her for 11th place. Senior Jade Rohach cleared a height of 4-6 and tied for 18th. Rohach also tried long jump for the first time. She set a mark of 15-2.5, which led the Lady Trojans and earned her an 11th place finish. Freshman Belle Tyynismaa also competed in the long jump and placed 12th with a mark of 15-2. Senior Riley Craun placed 28th out of 49 jumpers with her mark of 14-4.
"Our two long jumpers that have never jumped before wound up placing 11th and 12th," Corum said. "We haven't had much time with them, but we're excited about it. Riley has gone 15-6 last year and Shelby Bradley jumped 14-10.25 last week. We could have four girls over 15 feet and that's pretty exciting for us. It's also good to have that competition amongst the girls.
"Right now, I feel really comfortable with our field events," he said. "We've got to shore up another discus thrower. We're going to surprise people with another shot put thrower."
In the running events, Tyynismaa led the way in the 400-meter dash. She finished her race in 1:05.23 and placed 17th out of 77 runners. Paige Balvin also finished in the top half of the competitors. Balvin ran 1:08.82 and placed 36th.
Balvin and Tyynismaa helped the STC 4x400-meter relay finish 16th out of 26 teams. The Lady Trojans ran a colletive time of 4:31.63. Rohach and Bacon were the other two runners on the relay.
"Belle Tyynismaa really put together two fine 400s," Corum said. "She ran a 1:05 in the open and then split the same time in the relay. As a freshman, that's pretty good. She had a really good night."
South Tama's 3,200-meter relay squad finished 17th out of 26 teams. The Lady Trojans ran a time of 11:10.16. Relay members were Kelsey Kupka, Taylor Ellenbecker, Naomi Hoskey and Trisha Walz.
"We had a lot of girls stick out," Corum said. "A lot of them ran better. Right now, we feel like we're behind in our distance events. But last year it was 70 degrees out, so most of the practices were outside. With that being said, we'll get there. (Taylor) Ellenbecker and (Kelsey) Kupka are state qualifiers and they know what takes."
The Lady Trojans coach was pleased with the meet. He was happy that the girls improved their times or marks from the first meet at Iowa State University.
"I thought it was a really good meet," Corum said. "I thought we definitely dropped some times, especially on relays. In our open events, we also dropped times or improved distances. I think we had 17 PRs last night. Every time we set a new PR, we are going after it again. The improvement in one week's time was really good.
"I want to set the bar high for these girls," he added. "My fear is that we might set the bar too low and they'll be satisfied with it. I want them to keep pushing the envelope. Coach Van Zante and I need to keep pushing it out there. It's exciting, because the girls are receiving it well. They are coming up to us and asking to try new events, which is kind of exciting."
South Tama will compete in its final indoor track and field meet today. STC will travel to Waverly for the North Iowa Cedar League co-ed meet. It begins at 3 p.m. The Lady Trojans will be missing athletes for the second straight meet as a few team members have other activities.
"There is some good competition there," Corum said. "There will be good individuals and teams. We're going to go up there with the idea of making a statement. We will be as competitive as we can and the girls are up for the challenge. We'll be ready to go."