DES MOINES — Keenan Davis wrapped himself with the championship flag. He couldn’t help himself, it was there sitting there waiting for him.
Davis, a senior, gathered his Cedar Rapids Washington teammates together moments before the Warriors accepted the ultimate team goal in track: the state championship trophy. Washington’s athletes jumped up and down chanting, “We won state, we won state.”
Yes, they did. Washington became the first Cedar Rapids metro school to claim the Class 4A state title since 1977. Washington, which won state titles in 1975 and 1977, scored 60 points to beat Mississippi Valley Conference rival Iowa City West by four points.
“All year, we’ve been saying we need a state championship,” said Davis, who will play wide receiver for Iowa next fall. “As seniors, that’s all we dreamed about ever since we were little kids.”
Washington led throughout the three-day state meet and survived a few misses. Saturday, the Warriors entered the shuttle hurdle finals with the best preliminary time in the class. But lead-off runner Larry Johnson tripped over the sixth hurdle and nearly was disqualified. But Johnson gathered himself quickly and the Warriors finished fourth in the event.
“I didn’t lift my leg up on the shuttle hurdle, and it just kind of caught me this time,” Johnson said. “I just clipped it. I was in the lead and you win some and you lose some.”
But Johnson turned around a gutsy effort in the 110-meter high hurdles. He entered the round seeded fourth and placed second. That was one event that Washington Coach Bill Pinckney thought decided the meet’s outcome.
“You have ups and downs at the state meet and the kids responded,” Pinckney said. “They responded. If we lost in one event, we got kickbacks in other events.
“One of the ones that comes to mind is the shuttle hurdle. Larry caught a hurdle, almost went down and almost touched the next hurdle with his hands. He didn’t then he turns around, comes in fifth in the highs and gets second. That was a getback we had to have. It was huge.”
It wasn’t easy, and city rival Cedar Rapids Kennedy made sure it would hang on until the end. Kennedy finished in a fourth-place tie and won two events Saturday morning. Kyle Slaymaker won the 800 in 1:54.34.
“Last year I got boxed in and I was just trying to get out as quick as I could,” Slaymaker said. “I wasn’t sure if I had my pace set very well and I knew I came through in like 57 or so. I knew I was going to have to pick it up if I wanted to get a good time.
Kennedy took advantage of Washington’s early mistake in the shuttle hurdle and stormed past everyone to win that event. Iowa City West also gave Washington a ferocious challenge. The Trojans won the 4×100 and posted top-five finishes in the 100, 200 and 1,600.
Washington clinched the title in the the 4×100, the meet’s second-to-last race, with a fifth-place finish.
It was Washington’s day and weekend. The Warriors accepted their trophy and sang the school fight song. Amid sprinkles to the west of Drake Stadium, it was their perfect ending, one they all will remember.
“It’s not about one person; it’s about the whole team,” said Washington sophomore Alex Carr. “That’s nice. It feels good.”