Wood makes the most of his final time at Drake
DES MOINES — Nearly 7,000 athletes competed at the Drake Relays over the weekend, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one of them who has more experience competing on the Blue Oval of Drake Stadium than Central College senior Kyle Wood.
The Relays marked the 16th and final time that the 2008 Newton Senior High School graduate ran at Drake, having done it eight times as a Cardinal and now eight times as a member of the Dutch.
He ran in three College-Division relays on Friday and Saturday — the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400-meters. Each had a top-10 finish, taking fourth, third and ninth place, respectively.
His 2012 Drake Relays began Friday morning with the 4x100 preliminaries, in which the Central team of senior Trevor Veach, junior Logan Danko, him and senior Allen Scovel won its heat and qualified fifth for the finals with a time of 41.74 seconds.
Wood ran twice more Friday afternoon. First was the 4x200 finals. The Dutch team of sophomore Mitch Wagoner, Danko, Wood and Scovel finished third in 1 minute, 26.55 seconds, placing behind Division II Wayland Baptist (TX) and North Central College (IL). The field also included several top National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic Schools.
“That was the first time we’ve ran that race all year, and will probably be our last,” Wood said. “Running against D2 and NAIA athletes, we were really happy to be able to compete right with them. Finishing in the top three is something special and something we’ll always remember.”
Wood ran the third leg for both the 4x100 and 4x200.
Later Friday afternoon was the 4x400 prelims, in which Wood ran the lead leg for the team that included Veech, freshman Mason Zimmerman and Scovel. Central finished third in its head and just missed the eighth qualifying spot for Saturday’s finals, finishing in ninth place with a time of 3:15.91.
“We were pretty happy with the result of that time,” Wood said. “It was our fastest time of the season and is 12th-best in the nation, but that won’t get us to nationals.”
That left the 4x100 finals as the Wood’s final event on the Blue Oval. The Dutch took fourth in 41.39 seconds, just .08 behind its season-best time — set at Drake at the Jim Duncan Invitational on April 14.
“We’re pretty happy with it,” Wood said about the 4x100. “It’s our best finish in at the Drake Relays for that event. We took fifth last year and sixth the year before, so I like that we’ve improved each time.”
Of course, the weekend’s weather was some of the most unpleasant Wood had seen in all his times competing at Drake. Friday and Saturday’s temperatures held in the 50s, and a strong breeze had almost everyone running a little slower.
“In the 4x200, two of our guys had to run straight into the wind,” Wood said. “It makes running tougher. It wears you out a little more in those longer races. But everyone was running in the same wind, so we just had to push through it. As sprinters, we like warmer weather. Distance runners probably like the cooler weather and the breeze.”
When asked what their biggest memory of competing at the Drake Relays is, most athletes say it’s the crowd.
For Wood, it’s no different.
“Running down that home stretch for the 4x400 was pretty fun, because I could hear people yelling ‘Go dutch!’ I’ll always remember that.”
While Saturday will go down as the last time Wood competed at Drake as an athlete, he could very well make future appearances in a different role.
“I plan on coaching track and football, he said. “Hopefully I can get some of my athletes to that stadium.”
Wood is double majoring in history and secondary education at Central, and is on track to graduate in December after student-teaching in the fall.