DES MOINES — Iowa’s most prominent track and field invitational, the Drake Relays, began on Wednesday, but for the high school boys and girls throwers, Thursday held supreme significance. The girls discus and boys shot put finals took place on Thursday afternoon, and there were plenty of notable achievements, with each of the Jasper County representatives earning a place in the top-six.
First there was Newton sophomore Sarah Kalkhoff. Kalkhoff came in to the Relays with a PR of slightly more than 126 feet, and she knew that would probably not be good enough to compete with this stacked field. She has been the Cardinals’ best discus thrower all season, but on Thursday, she got the opportunity to prove herself against the best throwers from throughout the state. She did not disappoint. On her second throw, Kalkhoff spun around and flung the discus with all her might. It came crashing down just short of the 131-foot marker, with an official measurement of 130 feet, seven inches, a PR. That throw put her into the finals, and it was ultimately good enough to give Kalkhoff the sixth place spot at Drake.
“My first throw was not the greatest. So on the second one, I just had to come out and PR, because I knew the only way I was going to place was if I threw a PR,” Kalkhoff said. “I just wanted to throw a PR, and if I threw a 127, that would have been fine. So, that was really my goal, but I was able to throw an even better PR to place. So that’s the mentality I had to have, and it worked out because I was able to place here.”
Kalkhoff’s achievement is a sign of steady progression all season, and she credits her time spent working on her strength, as well as the constant support from her teammates and coaches.
“I’ve spent a lot of hours in the weight room,” Kalkhoff said. “Weight training has been a big thing for me, and part of my preparation is also having a good coach and a strong team to always have your back and support you. They’re always there to cheer for me.” Oh, I will be here next year.”
Even as a sophomore, Kalkhoff showed the focus and determination necessary to be a perennial threat at Drake. She also has the confidence to believe that she will be.
“Oh, I will be back here next year,” she said.
Kalkhoff was the second highest finishing underclassmen. Freshman Kiana Phelps took the event with a Drake Relay’s record throw of 153-04.
Next up on the schedule for high schoolers was the boys shot put. There were plenty of storylines surrounding this event. Newton senior Derrick Hurt finished second in the event last year to Urbandale’s Shaquille Wells, and he was looking to claim the top spot this season. In meets coming in, Hurt was placed third in the state.
The event was a spectacle of strength and grace, with Wells claiming the top spot yet again. This time, however, it took an incredible throw of 59-7.5 to win the event. Hurt didn’t let Wells’ mammoth throws hinder his performance. Hurt PR’d four separate times with throws of 55-4.5, 55-4, 55-9 and his best throw at 56-3.75 snuck him past West Des Moines Valley’s Jacob Campos to secure Hurt the number two spot.
“I met expectations. I PR’d four times, and you can’t ask for much more than that,” Hurt said. “It would have been nice to get first, but second is still very good, especially at Drake. Shaquille is a really good thrower.”
That final throw solidified Hurt’s position in Newton track lore, with that being the second longest throw in school history. Hurt understands and appreciates that accomplishment.
“It was really good to get to 56 for me, because it puts me a full foot further than I was before,” Hurt said. “It’s a really good feeling to become, as I understand, the second best shot thrower in Newton history behind only Chase Madison. “
Hurt credited his coaches for his preparation leading up to this meet, as well as familiarity with both the stage and the venue at Drake.
“I’ve worked really hard leading up to Drake. This past week, I kind of tapered off a little bit,” Hurt said. “Before I came here, coach had me do a workout, and that contributed a lot to my performance. Coach knows what he’s doing. So, we got here early and did a morning workout, and that really helped me throw well. Throwing here and at state definitely gave me an edge. Just being around it from an early age with my brother having thrown here too. That definitely helped me.”
The other Japer County thrower competing at Drake was Collins-Maxwell-Baxter junior Zach Samson. Samson came into the event as the fourth best thrower in Iowa, and he was able to PR at Drake as well with a throw of 55-5.25, roughly five inches further than his previous PR. Samson was the highest finishing non-senior in the field. Despite his solid performance, Samson stayed pat in the rankings, and he made it clear he was hoping to move into the top three, but with that being said, he still had a very solid showing.
“I came in and threw better than usual, so I met expectations there. I’m happy with my performance. I stayed the same position wise, so that was okay. I was hoping to move up, but I threw better. That works for me.”
Samson will be throwing at state this year, and he has his eyes on hopefully moving up once that time comes.
“I just want to keep building on this performance, keep building on it and get further as the year goes on,” he said.
The Drake Relays continue today with high school track events beginning as early as 8 a.m.