By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
The 108th Drake Relays came to a cold and wet close on Saturday afternoon but the high school track season is just starting to heat up.
Prep athletes return to Drake Stadium in Des Moines in three weeks for the opening day of the state track and field meet.
Consecutive Thursday in May bring conference, district and the opening day of the state meet on May 19.
As we begin to look ahead to Thursday’s conference meets here are five things we learned from the Drake Relays last week.
Valerie Welch Is Among The State's Best
Let’s start with something that was already known before last weekend – Valerie Welch is one of the best in the state.
The West High senior proved that with four top-five finishes at the Drake Relays for the second straight year.
Welch won her second Drake Relays title on Friday becoming the first West High girl to win the 100 hurdles in an impressive time of 14.43.
With the title in the 100 hurdles Welch became the first girl in West High history to win Drake Relays title in two individual events after winning the long jump title last year.
“It feels really good,” Welch said. “It was rainy and cold last year too and I feel like this is my year.”
Welch helped the West High shuttle hurdle relay team to a runner-up finish in a school-record time of 1:02.54.
The University of Colorado recruit added a fourth-place finish in the long jump and was fifth in the 400 hurdles.
West High Is A State Title Contender
Speaking of West High, the Women of Troy used the Drake Relays as a dress rehearsal for the state meet.
West High showed in three-days at Drake Stadium it was capable stealing the show at the state meet in three weeks.
The Women of Troy had a pair of Drake Relays champions in Welch and senior Leah Dusterhoft in the discus among 10 top-five finishes.
West High was fourth at the Class 4A state meet with 57 points last year but showed last weekend it is on pace to improve those numbers this season.
“Something that we talked to the whole team about is we want the Drake Relays more than anything else to be our preparation for state,” West High coach Mike Parker said. “See state, see what you want at state.”
Defending state champion Waukee figures to be the early state title favorite after placing in the top three in all six relays at the Drake Relays.
City High Relays Are Coming Around
Following the Forwald/Coleman Relays on April 20 City High coach Mike Moore said the Little Hawks had a chance to make some serious noise in the relays before it was all said and done.
The Little Hawks aren’t there yet but they certainly showed at the Drake Relays that they are on the right track to prove Moore right.
City High had four different relays place in the top 10 at the Drake Relays highlighted by a fifth-place finish from its 4×800 relay team.
All four City High relay teams ran season-best times at Drake including the 4×100 team of Zach Jones, Rajay Rodney, Rex Thompson and Vance Dillon.
In its first time running together this season the City High 4×100 team clocked a 43.79.
City High also got an eighth-place finish from its 4×400 team that Moore believes could be a top-four state finisher and the distance medley team finished sixth.
“We had a lot of good things this weekend,” Moore said. “We have things we need to work on and we have to do that work but I think we saw a little bit this weekend the things that we can do.”
The West High Boys Are For Real
It has already been a season of great growth for the West High boys program.
If the three-days at the Drake Relays are any indication the Trojans will be showing just how far they have come at the state meet.
West High had nine top-ten finishes at the Drake Relays highlighted by a third-place finishes from Austin West in the 400 hurdles and Derek Nugent in the 800.
A year after finishing 18th at the state meet with 15 points the Trojans have the talent and balance to be serious players in the 4A team race.
Kolby Greiner and Ali Ali proved this week to be among the best distance duos in 4A, West and Nugent give the Trojans flexibility and West High had Drake qualifiers in three of four field events.
Brinkman is Among The Best Ever
Prior to last weekend Jared Brinkman’s prowess as a shot putter took a back seat to his football and wrestling accolades.
The Regain senior made a case on Thursday to go down as one of the state’s best to throw the shot.
Brinkman uncorked the sixth best mark in state history with a toss of 65-2 ½ on his way to a second consecutive runner-up finish at the Drake Relays.
The historic toss was part of the best Drake Relays competition of all time in the event.
For the first time in history four high school boys surpassed 60 feet in the shot put led by Mount Vernon senior Tristan Wirfs who won with a toss of 66-3 ½, second best all-time.
There have been six throws over 65 feet in state history and half of those have come this season.