Newton freshman Grace Coen has already accomplished quite a bit in her young but successful high school career, but over the weekend she accomplished something that goes beyond a high school accomplishment.
Competing in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs at the Drake Relays, Coen completed the cycle of going from a young fan watching in the stands to one of the competitors on the big blue oval.
“It was a little bit nerve-racking, but definitely exciting,” Coen said. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was little and I was watching my brothers. Down on the track can be overwhelming with all of the people yelling around you, but it’s a thrill.”
Coen kicked off her career at Drake Stadium by placing 12th in the 800 with a time of 2:17.25, improving her previous best time by about a second. Her nerves appeared to settle down quite a bit by Saturday morning, however, as she dropped nearly eight seconds off her 1,500 time and finished fourth at 4:40.45.
There is no doubt Coen will return to Drake for state in a few events, and her first-hand look at her competition helped her put faces on some names and numbers.
“I hadn’t really raced against most of them, I just knew their times and names from QuikStats,” Coen said with a laugh. “I didn’t really know who they were and how they raced, but it was still fun.”
Kicking off Newton’s competitors on Friday morning was sophomore Deonne Harris in the 110-meter hurdles. Entering the event with the state’s sixth-best time, Harris and the rest of his fellow competitors faced a stiff head wind swirling throughout Drake Stadium. Despite running his slowest time of the season, 15.51, Harris managed to finish second in his heat. However, he and Waukee’s Noah Larrison were the first two on the outside of the finals, missing by about .06 seconds.
Despite coming that close to the finals, Harris seemed optimistic after the race and already turned his attention toward the remainder of the season. Based on his performance so far this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him back on the oval at the end of the season.
“It was really, really nerve-racking, but I guess next year I just need to come out and work harder,” Harris said. “My goal was to finish first or second in the heat, but that wind just slowed us down a lot. My next goal is just to finish first at conference and districts, then return to state.”
After taking his third straight second-place finish in the shot put in Drake Stadium on Thursday, Cardinal senior Derrick Hurt returned for the discus on Friday. Things didn’t go quite to plan, however.
Hurt managed a throw of 134 feet, seven inches on his first attempt, but scratched in his next two throws. On that third attempt, he strained a hip flexor and decided to withdraw from competition.
Much like Harris, Hurt didn’t seem too discouraged by his day. Considering his perfomance in the shot put the day before and the work he had put into qualifying in the discus, Hurt was just fine with competing at Drake for a second day.
“It wasn’t a great day, but just being here is an accomplishment, especially for discus,” Hurt said. “I was fairly certain I was going to qualify for Drake in shot, so I really worked hard to qualify for disc, and I did.”
Moving to Friday night, it was two Cardinal relay teams’ turns in the spotlight. Although the 4x100 team of Harris, sophomore Jarom Williams, senior Dakota Hills and senior Andrew Clements didn’t reach the finals, it stayed pretty consistent with its position going into the relays. The Cardinals finished 45th overall in the event with a time of 44.75, which was a .01-second improvement from their seed time.
Competing under the Drake Stadium lights on Friday, the 4x400 team of senior Cody Maxwell, Hills, Clements and Williams finished 19th out of the 24 teams competing with a time of 3:32.36.