By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Valerie Welch doesn’t particularly like running in the rain or the cold.
Welch was never more happy to wake up to cool temperatures on and cloud skies on a race day than she was on Friday morning.
After a disappointing fourth-place finish in the long jump on Thursday, Welch won the second Drake Relays title of her career on Friday winning the 100 hurdles in a time of 14.43 at cool and rainy Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
“(The long jump) was very disappointing so today feels kind of redeeming in that respect,” Welch said. “I knew that was not what I could do and I knew that wasn’t me at my best so I couldn’t wait for today to show this is not going to be a bad weekend.”
Just as she has been all season, Welch was dominant on her way to the hurdle title on Friday.
Welch entered with the fastest time in the state this season at 14.34 and coasted to the fastest time in the morning prelims.
The West High junior then added a track title to her long jump crown from last season when the she finished nearly half a second in front of runner-up MiAsia Bergmann of Cedar Rapids Jefferson (14.88) in the finals.
“I’ve been leading most of this year,” Welch said. I would have been really disappointed if that would have not been the outcome.”
Welch did it all while running in conditions that were less than ideal but all too familiar.
Temperatures in the mid-30s and a steady rain couldn’t stop Welch from becoming just the third Drake champion to run faster than 14.46 in the 100 hurdles since 2010.
“This is Drake weather,” Welch said. “I think my freshman year was the last time it was semi decent at Drake so we expect it.”
Welch won the first Drake Relays title of her career last year, capturing the long jump title in her first appearance in the event.
She came up short of a repeat in the event on Thursday, finishing fourth.
Welch quickly put that disappointment behind her on Friday when she became the first girl in West High history to win individual Drake Relays title in two different events.
“It feels really good,” Welch said. “It was rainy and cold last year too and I feel like this is my year.”
The title came after a trio of close calls on the Drake Stadium track last year.
Welch was runner-up to Pleasant Valley’s Carly Donahue in the 400 hurdles last year at the Drake Relays and was part of West High’s runner-up shuttle hurdle relay team.
She was third in the 100 hurdles last year behind Donahue and Cedar Rapids Jefferson Abilene Ranschau.
Welch took more than .2 off her third-place time from last year while cruising to the title on Friday.
“Abby Ranschau and Carly Donahue were both really good hurdlers,” Welch said. “I would have liked to have beaten them when I had the chance but it feels really good.”
Welch burst out of the blocks and had built a sizeable lead less than 30 meters into the race.
By the 50-meter mark Welch was running alone.
“At the second hurdle I couldn’t really see anyone in my peripherals anymore,” Welch said. “When I hit that eighth hurdle I kind of stumbled and I still didn’t see anyone I felt like I was o.k.”