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DES MOINES — Lea Grady came into high school as a sprinter. She is leaving as a state discus champion.

The Davenport Central senior broke her own school record twice, including a heave of 150 feet, 11 inches, to dominate the Class 4A competition Thursday morning outside Drake Stadium.

Grady is the first girls’ state champion from Central in a throwing event and just the second from a Davenport public school joining 1993 and 1994 shot put champion Andrea Miller of North. 

“I dreamed about this day, but I didn’t know if it would come true,” Grady said. “I guess sometimes dreams do come true.”

Grady was running the 200 at the start of her freshman year. During an indoor meet, she tinkered with the shot put for fun with some teammates. One of her friends relayed to the coach she had potential.

“The next day the (throws) coach was like, ‘You’re going to practice with us,’” Grady said. “I was terrible at the discus and I wanted to quit, but he kept encouraging me and I eventually started getting better.”

Her winning throw was 16th on Iowa’s all-time list and 25 feet farther than her fifth-place state showing a year ago.

“She’s just applied everything she’s learned,” Central throws coach Juan Rangel said. “It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece. She’s starting to realize what potential she actually has and what she’s capable of doing.

“This feels extra good to have a champion in the throws for Central. I’m overwhelmed.”

Grady overwhelmed the field. She finished more than 20 feet ahead of Bettendorf senior and runner-up Grace Erpelding.

In fact, all five of the throws Grady marked on would have won the competition.

Grady threw 148 feet at the state-qualifying meet last week. She went 149-1 on her second throw in the preliminaries Thursday and then unleashed the 150-11 on the second attempt in the finals.

“Yeah, I knew (149-1) would be enough to win, but it wasn’t enough for me,” Grady said. “If I can throw (150) in practice, I feel I need to do it at a meet, especially state.

“It is just the beginning. I still have college left, and they throw way further. This is just another step.”

Grady, among the favorites in Friday’s shot put, plans to do track and field in college. She still is undecided on where she will attend.

Regardless, Rangel believes Grady has just scratched the surface.

“Her best throw today wasn’t even her best form,” Rangel said. “She got enough into it to make it a good throw. When she puts together the perfect throw, it wouldn’t surprise me for her to get it out there 170 or 180.”

Erpelding came in seeded 12th after throwing 115-7 at the North Scott regional. She fouled on two of her first three attempts but tossed a 122-10 to make the finals.

In the finals, the four-sport athlete uncorked three personal bests — 125-4, 126-3 and 129-9 — to earn her first state discus medal.

Muscatine’s Maddy Beik was the metro surprise of the opening session. The senior finished second in the 4A high jump after a career-best leap of 5-3.

Coming into the season, Beik never had jumped higher than 4-6.

“I was really shocked to come out here and jump that today,” Beik said. “I didn’t expect that at all.

“I thought I was going out after 4-11.”

Beik is going to Kirkwood Community College this fall to be on the dance team and study nursing.

“This morning I ran the shuttle hurdle relay, and I was definitely way more nervous for that than I was the high jump,” Beik said. “I took the high jump as a point to relax and have fun. I ended up doing really well.”

Pleasant Valley’s Sara Hoskins tied for third with a clearance of 5-3, and North Scott’s Alexis Hayes was seventh at 5-1.

Hoskins came within a half-inch of her personal best.

“I’m very happy,” Hoskins said. “My goal this season was to get in the top five, so I’m excited with top three. This gives me a lot of confidence knowing that I can be up there with all these girls that are so talented.”

PV’s Amaria Kirby qualified for Saturday’s final in the 100 with a preliminary time of 12.54 seconds.

Southeast Polk's Sydney Milani ran an Iowa all-time best of 52.90 seconds to claim the 400 title. It is the fifth quickest time registered in the country this season.


Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.