Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Valerie Welch entered the final state track and field meet of her career with a career that could stack up with any in school history.
Welch came to Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Friday with 10 state medals, five school records and a Drake Relays championship to her credit.
Seemingly all that was missing from her list of accomplishments was a state title.
Welch took care of that on Friday.
The West High senior won a pair of state titles in a matter of hours on Friday, helping the distance medley relay team to a title and picking up her first individual title in the long jump.
“I thought after my junior year when I won long jump at Drake ‘here comes a state championship’ and then it didn’t really work out,” Welch said. “Not that I ran poorly at state last year but this year it’s worked out for me and that’s been amazing.”
The big day from Welch helped West High keep its hold on the Class 4A team standings heading to the final day.
West High enters Saturday with 62 points, 10 more than defending state champion Waukee.
“Coach keeps talking about momentum and how we need to build momentum today because tomorrow is all finals,” Welch said. “We wanted to stay ahead in team points going into tomorrow and that distance medley we kicked it off with momentum and it just kept going.”
Over the past two seasons Welch established herself as one of the best and most versatile athletes in the state.
She claimed four medals at the state meet each of the past two years but her best finish was a pair of runner-up performances as a sophomore.
Welch finally broke through on Friday with what she called the best day of her athletic career.
She ran the 400-meter leg on the West High distance medley relay team that won in 4:03.21 and added a title in the long jump with a leap of 18-5 3/4.
In between her two state titles on Friday Welch added a third place finish in the 400 hurdles in a season-best time of 1:03.21 and qualified for the finals of the 100 hurdles with the second fastest time in prelims.
“I would say yes, it is,” Welch said when asked if Friday was the best day of her career. “I got a pr in my 400 split, pretty good clean race in the 100 hurdles, not a pr in the 400 hurdles but the best I have run all season”
As a junior Welch burst onto the scene as an elite long jumper when she soared 19-4 in her first time in the event.
She won the Drake Relays title in the long jump but settled for a third-place finish at state.
Welch didn’t reach 19 feet on Friday but she did what she needed to earn the first individual title of her career on a cool and rainy afternoon.
“Maybe I can’t jump that far this season but I just needed to jump farther than everyone else at this time, that’s kind of what I was going for,” Welch said. “Nobody had spectacular jumps it’s cold and wet and raining so I just had to do better than everyone else today.”
Welch jumped 17-11 ¼ on her third attempt and trailed only defending champion Darby Thomas of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln entering the finals.
The first two attempts for Welch in finals were scratches and she still sat in second place heading to her final attempt.
Welch got a little advice from the West High coaching staff before her final attempt that resulted in the winning 18-5 ¾.
“He just told me that we’ve had girls win it on their last jumps, you’ve been jumping 18 foot jumps just do it again and don’t scratch,” Welch said. “He didn’t really tell me anything technique wise nothing beyond move back a quarter of a foot and do the same thing.”
Welch became the third long jump champion in West High history joining McKennan Cronbaugh and Jessica Gehrke and gave the Women of Troy its sixth title in the event in the past nine years.
“Going into my last one coach always says it only takes one,” Welch said. “He told me we’ve had girls win it on their last jump and I knew I could do that.”
West High junior Kitra Bell was a member of the winning distance medley relay team and finished sixth in the long jump with a leap of 17-0 ¼.
“I’m so happy for Val,” Bell said. “I am truly so happy for her, she’s been amazing.”