DES MOINES — As the bell lap sounded for the Class 4A 3,200-meter run Thursday morning, Konnor Sommer was in fourth place and trailed the leaders by about 20 meters.
Sommer almost had conceded defeat.
“I was thinking it was too far and I wouldn’t be able to catch them,” he said.
The Pleasant Valley senior found another gear, and his strong kick the last 250 meters resulted in a state championship at Drake Stadium.
Sommer picked off Ankeny’s Tim Sindt, Johnston’s Tom Altier and then passed Dowling Catholic’s Matthew Carmody before the final 100 meters to win the race in a personal-best 9 minutes, 15.79 seconds.
“I felt strong,” Sommer said. “I felt really strong. I knew at that point I was already gaining on Carmody and I just could tell I was going to be able to catch them.”
Sommer joins Devin Allbaugh and Andrew Swanson as state champions from PV in the 3,200. His victory was the first for the Spartans at the state meet since Swanson won the 1,600 and 3,200 in 2010.
As Sommer came down the front stretch with the lead, he separated himself to win by nearly two seconds. He raised his arms briefly in celebration.
“It was an awesome feeling, but it also was terrifying that somebody would pass me,” Sommer said. “I just pumped my arms as hard as I could, a grimace on my face and went all out the last 100 meters.”
Sommer stayed conservative early in the race. Some of that stemmed from getting boxed in on the first couple of laps. He was third after a mile in 4:40 and fell back to fourth with two laps to go.
“I knew I’d have a kick on the last lap,” he said. “It paid off.”
Sommer, an Iowa recruit, was the top runner on PV’s state cross country championship team last fall. This was his first individual state title.
“Cross country was awesome because the whole team shared in the excitement,” he said, “but as an individual, it feels really good to know I put in the work and it paid off.”
Bettendorf’s Darien Porter just missed a state title repeat in the 400 meters.
Porter, who came in as the top seed with a 47.92 last week at districts, was edged at the finish line by Iowa City West’s Austin West, 47.94-47.99.
"I just came up a little short this time," Porter said.
Porter led for most of the race and had a considerable advantage on West coming down the front stretch. West closed well and pushed across the line to clip a diving Porter.
“I thought I was in pretty good shape (with 100 to go),” Porter admitted. “I didn’t even see him coming.
“Austin had an awesome kick, so hats off to him. He ran a great race.”
It was the second fastest open 400 Porter has run in his career, a quarter-second faster than his winning time in 2017.
“I definitely can say I left it all out there,” Porter said. “It is a bit of a surprise, especially coming back as a returning state champion, but I knew it was going to be a challenge and tough.”
Porter has contemplated graduating early next year to enroll at Iowa State in the 2019 spring semester to get a head start on his college football career.
“It is never a good feeling to get second place,” Porter said. “I’ll have to think about it, reflect when the meet is over and make my decision then.”
Porter did qualify for Saturday’s final in the 200 with a preliminary time of 22.09 seconds. He’ll anchor the Bulldogs’ sprint medley and 1,600 relays later this weekend.
“I can’t dwell on it for too long,” he said. “I don’t want it to get inside my head and mess me up. I still want to get my teammates a gold medal.”
In addition to Sommer, PV’s Sam Hanna earned a medal Thursday.
Hanna threw a career-best 174 feet, 11 inches to take the bronze in the discus. Those six team points left the Spartans with 16 after the opening day, tied for third with Dowling Catholic and seven behind leader Iowa City West.
In just his third year throwing, Hanna has improved by 50 feet since his sophomore year.
“This has gone better than I ever expected,” Hanna said. “I’ve made a lot of improvement with coach (Nick) Sacco.
“I’m excited. I haven’t thrown in that range for a couple weeks now, so it is good to PR at the right time.”
Hanna has an opportunity to add more team points and grab another medal in the shot put Friday. He’s seeded seventh.
“The nerves of the first day and trying to get some points and a high place are over,” Hanna said. “I can just go out and throw far.”
Davenport North’s Keenan Hollingshed was seventh in the high jump (6-3) and Bettendorf’s Carter Bell was ninth (6-3).
Davenport West’s shuttle hurdle relay team of Brady Richlen, DJ Mosley, Anthony King and Tyler Williams ran a school-record 58.33 seconds to earn a spot in Saturday’s final.