There was a feeling of overwhelming joy for the athletes competing in the Dubuque Senior Tri-State Invitational on Tuesday at Dalzell Field.

Not only are they happy to be back in competition after COVID wiped away the 2020 season, but for really the first time this season Mother Nature cooperated, with nearly an 80-degree picturesque spring afternoon.

Dubuque Wahlert prevailed in the 12-team event, winning the team rankings with total score of 133.5. The Golden Eagles claimed gold in seven events, with two athletes stealing the show.

Freshman Rylee Steffen blazed her way to gold in the 400 meter dash with a time of 57.55, nearly 10 seconds clear of the runner-up. With the victory, she broke Wahlert’s previous school record in that event of 57.97, set in 2011. Steffen now has the top time in Iowa this season with her effort Tuesday.

“I feel amazing,” Steffen said. “Working all year round has totally paid off. I can’t believe that I achieved my goal long before I wanted too. It’s just amazing.”

Steffen was also part of the 4x400 meter relay for the Golden Eagles, which took first place in 4:08.30.

Not to be outdone was Steffen’s teammate Tessa Berning. The junior, competing in her first year of track, won the long jump (17-08.50) and the 200 meter dash (26.85), and was part of the first-place 4x200 and 4x400 relays.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Berning said. “This is my first season out, so it’s just really fun to experience everything and be part of the team and run with the girls. Since the beginning of the season, I’ve just gotten so much stronger, so it’s all coming together and paying off.”

Ellie Meyer also claimed the 3,000 meter run for Wahlert in a time of 11:15.83, while Nikki Tranel, Mia Kunnert, Jamie Schmid and Alan Duggan claimed the distance medley in 4:30.85. Ivy Dearstone finished runner-up in the high jump.

“I love running outside,” Meyer said. “It feels really good just to have my teammates pushing me on to help my mindset.”

Western Dubuque had a strong showing as well, placing second in the team rankings with 104.5 points. Audrey Biermann claimed the 100 meter dash in 12.83 seconds and was a part of the 800 sprint medley first-place team of Erica Ernzen, Ella Schindler and Sammy Recker in 1:50.51.

WD coach Josie Limmex was extremely proud of her team’s effort.

“It’s just so awesome to be watching track and field again,” Limmex said. “We had a season best in every relay tonight, so that’s what we were shooting for.”

Dubuque Hempstead placed third with a total of 92 points and took gold in three events. Julia Gehl, Brooke O’Brien, Ella Hermiston and Keelee Leitzen won the 4x800 in 9:45.18. O’Brien placed first in the 800 in 2:22.38 and Leitzen won the 1,500 in 4:56.02.

“It feels amazing (to be competing),” O’Brien said. “We haven’t had a warm meet yet. It’s all been 40 degrees and under.”

Leitzen echoed her feelings.

“It was exciting,” Leitzen said. “The warm weather is so nice to be racing in. “It’s nice coming back from cross country season. It’s just fun racing again.”

Despite not winning an event, the Rams had a strong showing with a sixth-place overall finish with a total of 70.5 points. Lily Schmidt, Leah Klapatauskas, Kaitlyn Miller and Izzy Gorton took second in the 4x800 with a time of 10:01.23.

Cascade finished in eighth place with 36 points but won the 4x100 hurdles. Elizabeth Gibbs, Rachel Rhomberg, Libby Felton and Devin Simon claimed gold in 1:10.80.

Bellevue’s Shayla Oster had a nice day in the field, winning the discus (119-09) and shot put (34-11.75).

“It’s just great to be out here,” Wahlert coach Tim Berning said. “From last year not having anything to this year just having the kids compete and making memories, that’s the best part.”

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