Most high school athletes that compete at the Drake Relays say there is no higher honor, and as the meet draws closer, plenty of area athletes are in position to earn that honor.
Between the five high schools in Jasper County, 22 events are either currently qualified or within striking distance of qualifying for Drake Relays, which will begin on April 24 at Drake Stadium.
Although things could change drastically between now and the April 19 qualifying cutoff point, here are the current athletes and teams that have put themselves in position for Drake, according to the latest time updates on QuikStats:
Field events could be a Jasper County-filled affair. Newton senior Derrick Hurt will likely be returning to the shot put with a chip on his shoulder after an upstart performance last season placed him second. He is currently ranked fourth in the state in the event with a throw of 55 feet, 4 inches, as well as 11th in the discus with a throw of 152-7.
Right there with Hurt is Collins-Maxwell-Baxter junior Zach Samson, who is rated fifth in the shot put (54-9) and ninth in the discus (154-7). CMB sophomore Patrick Girard is also within striking distance, as he is ranked 32nd in the event that takes the top 24.
Newton sophomore Sarah Kalkhoff is also in position to qualify for the discus, as she is currently ranked 19th with a throw of 119-5.5. Newton senior Dakota Hills is right on the fringe of the long jump, currently tied for 24th with a distance of 21 feet even. CMB senior Alex Broderick is currently on the outside looking in for the high jump, ranked 29th with a jump of five feet even.
Standout Newton freshman Grace Coen could have one of the busiest days of the county competitors, as she is in line to qualify in three events. Her top ranking is in the 1,500-meter run, in which she is eighth with a time of 4 minutes, 48.19 seconds. She is also 16th in the 800 with a time of 2:20.14 and 17th in the 3,000 with a time of 10:45.17. An appearance at Drake would no doubt further her impressive career thus far.
Another county competitor that could be busy at Drake is Colfax-Mingo senior Connor Hainer. Hainer is currently ranked 10th in the state in the long jump with a distance of 21-9.5, and should remain in the top 24 through the next few weeks. In the 100, where the top 32 advance, Hainer is currently 23rd at 11.22.
Speaking of the 100, Lynnville-Sully junior Meliek Meyer is just about set in stone for the event. After running a meet record 10.70 at the Raider Invitational last Friday, Meyer currently leads the entire state in the event. He returns this season after finishing second in the Class 1A 100 at state last year.
In the 110 hurdles, two area underclassmen are looking strong for a qualifying spot. Newton’s Deonne Harris has earned the No. 10 spot in the state in his impressive sophomore campaign, currently seeded with a time of 15.20. Meanwhile, CMB sophomore Bryce Kemp appears determined to fill graduated senior Josh Zeiser’s spikes, as he is seventh in the state with a time of 15.11.
Colfax-Mingo senior Jaden Van Dyke rounds out the area’s individual competitors in qualifying position at this point. He is currently tied for ninth in the state in the 800 with a time of 1:59.76. Van Dyke qualified for the event at state last season.
Moving to relays, the Newton boys 4x400 squad of Hills, Cody Maxwell, Andrew Clements and Jarom Williams is currently ranked eighth in the state with a solid time of 3:29.48. Considering the top 24 qualify for the event, it’s a safe bet to say the Cards will be present. The Cardinal boys could also represent in the 4x100, as the team of Harris, Hills, Williams and Clements is currently ranked 21st with a time of 44.76. A robust 80 teams qualify in the event.
On the girls’ side, the Prairie City-Monroe 4x100 team of Mackenzie Clarke, Emily Hugen, Kelsey Towsend and Lexi Kain is currently ranked 68th with a time of 53.72. The Newton 4x400 team of Alexis DesPlanque, Taylor Fisher, Sydney Jenkins and Amber Karsten is just on the outside of qualifying for that event at the moment.
With a time of 4:17.19, the Cardinals are ranked 27th and will need to improve to 24th in order to qualify.
The official high school entry list will be released by Drake University on April 20.