DES MOINES — Kevin Kurth has had some heartbreaks during his career at Davenport Central in the long jump.
He did not record a mark at the state-qualifying meet last season. He missed out on a Drake Relays championship flag last month by a quarter of an inch.
So when Kurth was in fifth place after the preliminaries of Friday morning’s Class 4A state competition, the Davenport Central senior knew his window of opportunity was closing for a major breakthrough.
“I really wanted a state title and kept telling myself, ‘Prove it. You have three jumps left in a Blue Devil uniform. Leave it all out there. There is no coming back,’” Kurth said.
Kurth left with a state championship medal draped around his neck after a leap of 22 feet, 3 1/2 inches in the finals was good enough to stave off West Des Moines Valley’s Tariq Brown by 1 1/2 inches.
Back to 1959 state champion Gayle Hopkins, Central has produced plenty of high-caliber long jumpers. Chris Walker (1982-84) and Kenny Gilmore (2009-11) each claimed three consecutive titles in the event.
Kurth can add his name to that accomplished list.
“Anybody who knows me realizes I have some pride in Davenport Central,” Kurth said.
Headed to compete at Army next fall, Kurth is just one of three seniors on this year's team to stick with the track and field program for four years.
“I’m proud to say I’m a product of coach (Casey) Schwartzlose’s program,” Kurth said.
Kurth was consistent in the finals — 22-3 1/2, 21-10 and 21-9 1/2. After he finished up, he had to sit and wait for 20 to 25 minutes as two jumpers left the competition to run a relay before returning.
“All it takes is one jump to win, so I was a bit uncomfortable,” Kurth said. “I just tried to relax myself because there was nothing I could do.”
Waterloo West’s Carlton Todd and Johnston’s Anthony Coleman could not match him.
Kurth barely broke a smile afterward.
“All year I’ve been chipping away,” he said. “Track is a big mental thing and you do have ups and downs. Nobody goes forward 100 percent of the time.
“This is definitely something I’ll remember for a long time.”
Davenport North’s Akendre Abbey, Collin Glazek, Ezekiel Hayslett and Isaiah Gibbs placed fifth in the 800 relay in 1:28.44 — 0.25 seconds off a personal best.
It was the first state medal for all four. Abbey and Glazek were part of North’s 10th-place finish in the event last year.
“Considering the weather, it is kind of astonishing we ran that time,” Gibbs said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”
Glazek has been sick most of the week. The senior nearly passed out, he said, after Thursday’s 200 preliminaries.
“Today shows we can do anything we put our mind to,” said Glazek, who will run in Saturday's 200 and anchor North's 400 relay.
Pleasant Valley had two medalists in the shot put — sixth-place Cody Snyder and seventh-place Sam Hanna.
Snyder threw 53-5 1/2 and Hanna had a personal-best 52-8 1/4.
“It feels nice to bring home a medal for myself and bring points to the team,” Snyder said.
Hanna had never thrown beyond 50 feet in a meet until earlier this month.
“To be honest, I was surprised I made it here in the first place,” Hanna said. “When I made the finals, I was shocked. When I placed, I was just ecstatic.”
Bettendorf’s Suni Lane earned his second medal of the weekend. After taking fourth in Thursday’s high jump, Lane was seventh in the 400 hurdles in 54.92.
“My steps were just off a little bit the whole time,” Lane said. “I’m proud of myself. This is my last track meet and being able to compete against these guys and come home with two medals and score points for the team is what it’s all about.”
West Des Moines Valley leads the 4A team race with 53 points. Waukee is second at 39, while Bettendorf is eighth with 20 points and PV tied for 11th at 16.