DIKE — Managing the compressed schedule of Thursday’s district track and field meet with the opportunity for qualifiers to compete over three days the following week at state creates plenty of agonizing decisions for high school coaches.
Yet, no matter where Dike-New Hartford coach Barry Cuvelier plugs senior Connor Blough into his lineup, the versatile University of Northern Iowa track and field recruit has delivered. Blough’s combination of speed and toughness has made him a factor from 100 to 800 meters over the past four years.
That versatility was showcased last week when Blough defended individual North Iowa Cedar League event titles in the open 100 and 200, added a convincing win in the open 400 and anchored the Wolverines to victory in the 4x400 as Dike-New Hartford captured its third consecutive team championship.
In a sport that can become unpredictable, Blough has brought plenty of stability to his program by qualifying for state in four events each of his first three seasons.
“He runs anything from a 100 to an 800, which gives us a lot of options as far as things we might put together,” Cuvelier said. “Especially this year with a young team, he’s definitely stepped up and helped where we need him.”
While Blough has shown he can run with Class 2A’s elite, he’s also been a valuable team player. He carried the baton for Dike-New Hartford relays that placed fifth in the 4x200 and second in the 4x400, 4x800 and distance medley at last year’s state meet.
Following the graduation of a strong senior class, he’s led the way this spring on a large team with few seniors.
“We have 52 kids out for track and four seniors,” Cuvelier said. “Every time he comes out for a workout, he leads by example and kids respond to that.”
The example Blough set last week was one of excellence. Even with time added on for a hand-timed conversion, his 50.37 400 leads Class 2A. Blough also ranks among the top 12 in the 100 and top eight in the 200, while he has joined Broden Coulter, Ryan Moore and Nick Durnin on a 4x400 that ranks second. Moore, Coulter and Nate Sharp are back with Blough on an improving 4x800 team that placed second at state last spring.
“Our goal for the season is just to peak at state,” Blough said. “We’ve been practicing really hard as a team and it’s gotten us this far.”
The battle-tested competitor says he enjoys track’s variety. He’s continued a tradition of success in the 400 with former senior John Crew most recently placing second in that event last season.
“Really 4’s are my favorite,” Blough said. “But I just do whatever the coaches tell me and I just try to put us in the best position possible.”
Blough projects as a 400 and 800 runner at the collegiate level and Cuvelier feels he’ll handle that transition to collegiate track well.
“He’s one that is willing to accept those challenges,” Cuvelier said. “Connor will have every opportunity to be a part of a really classy Division I program. I think he’ll make that transition because of his work ethic.”
While Blough says he’s excited to be a Panther, he’s also looking forward to his final high school meets. He feels his team is where it should be for this point of the season.
“I’m definitely going to give it my all and have fun with it while I still have the chance,” Blough said of his final state meet.