Any high school track athlete in Iowa will say that competing at the Drake Relays is one of the biggest accomplishments they can have, and plenty of Jasper County athletes will know that feeling starting today.
Representatives from Collins-Maxwell-Baxter, Colfax-Mingo, Lynnville-Sully and Prairie City-Monroe will compete in both track and field events, trying to either defend current top state rankings or make a push for further success and an additional trip to Drake Stadium at the end of the season.
CMB’s Samson, Kemp try to defend top spots
Although it will be the first time competing at Drake for CMB junior Zach Samson and sophomore Bryce Kemp, the numbers don’t lie.
Both enter events with top-five rankings in the state, and even without knowing exactly what to expect from the field, they’re both expecting big things for themselves.
Samson isn’t a total stranger to Drake Stadium. After finishing fifth in Class 2A in the shot put last season, he will make his return trip with about four additional inches on his best throw from last year. He currently has the state’s fourth-best throw of 55 feet even.
“I feel pretty good going in,” Samson said. “I’m setting good, so I just need to go in and try to improve on what I’ve been doing all year. I know a lot of the guys I’m throwing against, and there’s a reason they’re at Drake — they’re the best. I just feel honored to be in that group.”
The only major adjustment Samson anticipates is throwing the discus in the morning instead of the afternoon. He currently sits 16th in that event with a throw of 154-7, but expects the ambiance of the stadium to give him a little extra nudge if he needs one.
“The atmosphere is great,” Samson said. “Going back to Drake is always one of my goals, with the Relays and making it to state again. You can just feel the vibe off people and that really gets the adrenaline running. It’s great.”
For Kemp, a lack of experience hasn’t slowed him down so far.
Even though he has never set foot in Drake Stadium, even as a spectator, Kemp doesn’t seem unprepared for the task. Taking over the 110-meter hurdles from defending Class 2A state champion Josh Zeiser, Kemp is right on pace to match his predecessor with a time of 14.80 seconds, which places him fourth in the state.
“I’m pretty excited and a little nervous, but not too much,” Kemp said. “It’s just going to be like another track meet, but with really good competition. I’m just going to have to try hard and do my best.”
Even more impressive was the fact that Kemp didn’t even know he would be running in the event at the beginning of the season. After being approached by his coaches, Kemp gave the event a try and, just a few months later, is hoping to drop his time to around a 14.50 to compete for a top spot.
Helping both competitors will be the fact that they can make the trip together. Samson had Zeiser to keep him company at state last season, and Kemp won’t have to make his first trip to Drake by himself. Samson will throw the shot put at 3:30 p.m. today and the discus at 9 a.m. Friday, while Kemp will run in the prelims 110-hurdle prelims at 8:16 a.m. Friday.
“Having him come down there with me will help a lot,” Kemp said of Samson. “This way I won’t be walking into the lion’s den by myself, so it will nice to have him there from a confidence standpoint.”
Tigerhawk seniors record multiple firsts at Relays
For Colfax-Mingo seniors Connor Hainer and Jaden Van Dyke, this year’s Drake Relays are a good indication of making the most of an opportunity.
After Hainer missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury and Van Dyke just found out Wednesday that he will be competing, don’t expect a lack of effort from either of coach Matt Barkalow’s first Drake Relays qualifiers.
“It’s the first time for my coach and the first time for me, so I’m pretty excited,” Hainer said. “I hope the atmosphere is crazy.”
Hainer, who is currently ranked 11th in the state in the long jump with a distance of 21-9.5, finished eighth at state as a sophomore in the event. After suffering his injury during football season, he returned to the track late in the season, but only in running events.
Using that as motivation, Hainer has since returned to form and is considered a contender in not only the long jump, but a few sprint events as well. For this weekend, he’s aiming for a jump of at least 22 feet and medal to bring home with him.
“I look back and remember that it was supposed to be eight months of recovery, but I recovered in six,” Hainer said of his injury. “If you work your butt off, it pays off and I’ve done that this year and qualified for Drake. I guess it is a little bit of a motivation.”
It might be difficult to find a more grateful competitor in this weekend’s events than Van Dyke. After missing qualifying by one spot and just .18 seconds, the C-M senior could have been left pondering what could have been. However, a phone call late Wednesday morning changed all of that when Van Dyke was offered to fill in for a last-second scratch elsewhere in the event.
“Apparently one of the other boys couldn’t compete for whatever reason, unfortunately, so they asked if Jaden wanted to go. He, of course, was thrilled with that,” Barkalow said. “He’s very elated and other than being a state champion, this is the last little check on his resume that he really wanted to accomplish in high school.”
Although Van Dyke has never competed in the relays, he is no stranger to Drake Stadium. The four-time state qualifier took fourth in the 800 at state last season, and is well on his way to returning for another shot at a title this season.
Hainer will compete at 9:30 a.m. Friday, while Van Dyke will take to the track at 1:45 p.m.
Meyer has speed to dominate Drake
The Drake Relays kick things off today at Drake University in Des Moines, but the Lynnville-Sully Hawks will have to wait until tomorrow to see one of their own compete.
L-S junior Meliek Meyer has had a fantastic season on the track for the Hawks, and he will be the Hawks’ only individual athlete competing at Drake when he lines up against some of the fiercest competition Iowa has to off in the 100-meter dash. Meyer ran as the anchor for the Hawks’ 63rd place 4x100 relay team at Drake last season, but tomorrow he will get the opportunity to flash his tremendous speed in a field of 32 sprinters.
His coach, Mike Parkinson, is clearly excited for the opportunity places at Meyer’s swift-moving feet.
“We are very excited about Meliek’s opportunity Friday at Drake Relays,” Parkinson said. “He is coming into the event with the top 100 time. Meliek is very focused and he’ll be ready to go. Meliek set a high goals for himself this season, and this is a great opportunity for him.”
As a sophomore, Meyer’s PR of 10.98 seconds placed him 19th in the state, tied with two other sprinters. This season, perhaps due to training and competing in other sports, Meyer’s speed has picked up significantly, especially relative to his competition. Meyer ran a 10.70 at Baxter on April 5, which gives him the top spot in the state by almost a full second. Meyer should put on a show of blazing speed for the fans at Drake. He will also get a second opportunity to show his virtues of velocity as the anchor leg for the 4x100 team yet again.
“Meliek is anchoring the 4x100 relay which will run later Friday evening,” Parkinson said. “His teammates on the relay are his brother Malin, Jacob Walker, and Bailee Samson. The entire Hawk team is behind Meliek and the 4x100 team, and we are excited that some of our own get to run on the Blue Oval Friday representing the Lynnville-Sully Hawk track program.”
The prelims for the 100 are scheduled for Friday at 8:46 a.m. with finals set for later that day at 12:28 p.m. The 4x100 prelims will be held on Friday at 6:00 p.m., and the finals are scheduled for Saturday at 3:15 p.m.
PCM girls defy elements for spot
After a few indoor meets and a slow start to the outdoor season because of the weather, the PCM girls track team has begun to find its stride in the past few meets. Not needing much time to warm up, however, was the 4x100 relay team of Mackenzie Clarke, Kelsey Townsend, Emily Hugen and Lexi Kain under the direction of first-year Mustangs coach Bridget Burns.
Although Hugen is a new face to Drake Stadium, the other three have competed there before, and with some success. Townsend, Clarke and Kain were all part of PCM’s 4x400 relay team that finished 14th in Class 2A at state last season. Kain and Townsend also competed together on a seventh-place shuttle hurdle relay team, while Kain wrapped up state competition by taking seventh as an individual in the 200.
This year’s 4x100 squad reached Drake with a time of 53.03 and will compete at 5:15 p.m. Friday in the prelims.