Scott Immerfall hadn’t planned on being the Marion High School boys head track coach this year.
But now, on the eve of the state tournament, he’s taking a loaded squad to Des Moines with a legitimate chance of bringing home the Class 3A team title.
Already, his hard-working squad of both veterans and newcomers can claim to be the best in school history by having set seven all-time records this season. The coach thinks two more school marks could easily fall this week in Des Moines.
A veteran coach with no track background from his own school sports days, Immerfall is quick to credit the success of this year’s team to the athletes themselves.
“We have a lot of really talented guys. And they worked very, very hard on their own in the off-season to get better.”
It wasn’t until midway through the school year that he found out he would be coaching them. He’s taught social studies at the high school since 1990 and had two previous stints as head track coach from 1991 to 1998 and then from 2000 to 2005.
He stepped down to become an assistant when former Indian runner Chad Zrudsky took over the reigns of the program. But when Zrudsky was appointed assistant high school principal during this past year, Marion athletic director Corby Laube asked Immerfall to take over again.
Immerfall knew he had a good group coming back, but said he was pleasantly surprised when the season started.
“The big thing is these kids came out in really good shape,” he explained. Two runners, Jared Samuelson and Brennen Kelly, went out for wrestling mainly for the training.
Experienced sprinters Derrick Williams, Devin LeBeau, Isaac Smith and Cale Cannoy all reported in peak condition, as did veteran hurdlers Isaac Frazier and Taylor Rogers.
And a void in long distance races was filled when cross country all-stater Lukas Mees joined the track team for the first time in his senior year and brought five of his cross country teammates along.
Mees, who had previously played soccer in the spring, started his own off-season running club. And in his maiden season, he broke the school record in the 3200 by almost 40 seconds. He also set the 1600 record. He’s among the favorites in both events at the state meet.
Another of his cross country buddies, Greg Sam, will be a contender in the 800 and has been a mainstay on relay teams.
Relying on balance and depth, the Indians won the Wamac Conference and district titles as well as five invitational meets. Immerfall noted that in the meets they didn’t win, they lost to Class 4A schools. They have state qualifiers in 15 of 18 events.
They’ll have two competitors in a pair of events: Sam and Kelly in the 800, and throwers Justin Dolley and Zach Borens in the shot put. The 4x200 relay team is ranked first in the state and the other relay teams should be competitive.
“This team has exceeded all of my expectations,” said Immerfall. “If everyone runs their best, I think we’ve got a real good chance to win state. And I’ll be very surprised if we don’t come in the top two or three.”
He’s been this close before, but it was a long time ago.
After his graduation from Winona State University in Minnesota in 1977, Immerfall took his first teaching job at North Linn High School and was head wrestling coach for 12 years. In his second year there, legendary boys and girls track coach Bob Mudd turned over the girls program to him even though he had no experience.
“I’d always played baseball during track season,” Immerfall explained. “But I think Bob knew I could get kids to come out for the team.”
With Mudd as his mentor, his girls won the conference title six times in his nine years as coach and finished in the top 10 at the state four times.
“One year,” he said, “we finished third but came within two points of winning the championship. We had a lot of talent. Just like we have a lot of talent this year.
“They’re all healthy and ready to go. We have a chance to score a lot of points. But no matter what, it’s been a nice season.”
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