By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
High school competition begins Thursday afternoon at the 108th Drake Relays and runs through Saturday afternoon.
There is plenty going on in and around Des Moines’ Drake Stadium to keep track fans entertained during the three-day prep portion of the meet and there is certainly no shortage of area athletes among those competing.
Of the 32 prep events contested at the Drake Relays this week, 28 have an area participant and 19 of those have more than one area entry.
Here are five area athletes to pay attention to this week.
West High, Senior
One of five returning Drake Relays champions Welch is aiming to become the fifth two-time individual Drake Relays champion in West High history and first since Jessica Gehrke won back-to-back long jump titles in 19-10.
Welch claimed the first Drake Relays title of her career last season in the long jump and brings top-two qualifying marks into his year’s event in three individual events.
Among the top track and field athletes in the state, Welch enters with top qualifying time in the 100 hurdles at 14.34 and has the second best qualifying performance in the long jump (18-10 ¼) and 400 hurdles (1:03.92).
Welch also helped the West High shuttle hurdle relay team post the second-best time among Drake qualifiers at 1:04.98.
With a title in either hurdle event Welch would become the first female in West High history to win Drake Relays titles in two different individual events.
Brinkman has been a big part of what has already been one of the most impressive seasons by high school throwers in state history.
One of 11 athletes to qualify in both of the throwing events, Brinkman is putting a giant exclamation point on his high school career.
Last year’s Drake Relays shot put runner-up, Brinkman notched the 11th best shot put in state history at 63-6 earlier this season, giving him the fourth best qualifying mark in a loaded Drake Relays field.
Brinkman will make his Drake Relays discus debut, entering with the 19th best qualifying mark at 162-2 ¼.
West High, Senior
Nugent has been a central force in what has been a resurgent start to the season for West High.
This week offers Nugent and his West High teammates an early opportunity to show that improvement to the rest of the state.
Nugent will be at the center of that effort this week, qualifying in the 800 and helping West High qualify in the 4×400, 4×800 and distance medley relays.
West High enters with top-eight qualifying times in all three of the those relays.
The Trojans 4×400 team has the fifth best qualifying time at 3:22.57.
City High, Junior
Four of the Little Hawks’ five event entries this week are relays and Jones is a part of three of those foursomes.
The junior helped City High qualifying in the 4×100 and 4×400 and ran the 400 meter leg of the Little Hawks distance medley relay team that enters with the sixth fastest time at 3:34.54.
City High brings the 13th best 4×400 time to Drake after Jones, Daniel Brown, Lucas Firmstone, and Jack Roggeveen clocked a season-best 3:25.26 at the Forwald/Coleman Relays last Thursday.
West High, Junior
Another West High athlete with a heavy workload this week, Nock is poised for the best Drake Relays showing of her career.
Nock enters with top-six qualifying times in all three of her individual events and anchored the West High 4×800 relay team that qualified with the sixth best time.
The Class 4A cross country champion last fall, Nock brings the fourth fastest 3,000 meter time in the state (10:22.24) into the Drake Relays on Thursday and has the sixth best qualifying time in the 1,500 (4:48.59).
It is the 800 where Nock ranks highest coming into the weekend with the third fastest time in the event at 2:15.28.
Nock should improve on her Drake Relays performance from a year ago when she finished outside the top 10 in both the 800 and 3,000.