DES MOINES — Tyler Olson knows when to make his move on the track.
Despite getting out in a good position in the second section of the boys 800, the Muscatine junior found himself stuck toward the middle of the pack for a large chunk of the race.
He picked his spot with about 100 meters to go, passing multiple runners and finishing fourth overall in a personal-best 1 minute, 55.90 seconds.
“It gives me a lot of motivation because I know at least two of the guys ahead of me are seniors, so I think I can improve a lot and possibly win next year,” Olson said. “I’m totally looking forward to working hard and getting there.”
Olson is no stranger to Drake Stadium. Less than a month ago, he medaled in the 800 at the Drake Relays after finishing fourth in 1 minute, 57.11 seconds. As a sophomore, he finished 21st in the 1,600 at last year’s state meet and was on the Muskies’ 4x800 relay team that finished 15th at state and Drake.
“I think [running the 800 at Drake this year] really gave me an advantage,” Olson said. “It gave me an idea of where I need to improve upon my race. I think I got the same place, but my time was much better. Conditions were better, but I think ran a lot better of a race this time.”
When looking at the results from Saturday’s 4A 800 and considering he has another year to train, Olson appears poised to make a run at the title in the event at next year’s state meet. The three finishers ahead of him were among seven seniors who finished in the top 10.
But if anyone knows how much difference a year can potentially make for the finishers behind him and possible newcomers, it’s Olson.
The junior, in just his first season competing regularly in the open 800, not only qualified for state but finished inside the top four.
As a team, Muscatine finished tied for 25th with five points, all courtesy of Olson. Valley won the boys 4A title with 73 points.
While Olson was the lone Muscatine boy to medal at state, senior Brina Kraft was the only girl for the Muskies to score points.
She ended her high school year with a seventh-place finish Saturday in the 1,500 in 4 minutes, 48.83 seconds. She was also on the Muskies 3,200 relay that finished 13th Thursday and the distance medley relay team that finished 16th Friday.
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” Kraft said about her high school career. “Being at a school like Muscatine, we have great coaches and a great school community who cheers me on every time. And everyone pushes me. I’ve gotten so much better as an athlete.”
For Kraft, though, the support extends beyond just Muscatine.
“Statewide, these girls are all great and they always congratulate and support you even if they’re running against you,” she said. “Just this overall experience in Iowa, it’s been great, and it’s good knowing that these girls have the same experience I do. We all get to get better together.”
In the fall, Kraft will join an Iowa State program that has historically been known for its success in distance events.
She believes competing four years with the best high school runners in the state will give her a leg up.
“Racing with these top girls is going to help me a lot in college knowing that I have experience racing with girls that are faster or on the same level as I am,” Kraft said. "The support that I’ve had over here is really going to help me in college with my other teammates.”