Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Qualifying for the Drake Relays was no surprise for Regina standout Annie Gahan.
Already a two-time Drake Relays qualifier Gahan entered her senior season expecting to compete for a spot at the prestigious prep portion of the event at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
While still exciting, earning a third trip to the Drake Relays wasn’t a shocker for Gahan.
What was a surprise for Gahan was the even that she will compete in this week on the famed Blue Oval inside Drake Stadium.
A Drake Relays qualifier in the 4×100 relay and 400 hurdles as a freshman and sophomore Gahan anchors the rising Regina shuttle hurdle relay team that enters competition on Thursday morning at 10:47 a.m. with the 10th fastest time in the state.
“I never thought I’d run at Drake in the shuttle hurdle,” Gahan said. “I didn’t even think about it.”
Gahan is familiar with the hurdles but her forte has always been the 400-meter version where she is a two-time Class 2A medalist.
She had rarely run the high hurdles in her career let alone the shuttle hurdle relay.
Gahan estimates she’d run the open 100 hurdles maybe twice in her first two seasons.
Lacking the depth to field a shuttle hurdle relay team Gahan had focused on individual events or other relays.
“The shuttle hurdle was maybe something we’d run once or twice a year just to see what we could do,” Gahan said. “Then we’d focus on something else.”
Veteran Regina head coach Chad Swope followed that same approach early this season.
Only this time Swope, Gahan and the rest of the Regals saw something they liked.
“We ran a couple of times and the first time we ran it was a 1:11 or 1:12 and they started talking right away that they could get it down and they were talking about the school record,” Swope said. “We stuck with it and the girls have really improved.”
In fairness to Swope and Gahan no one really saw the shuttle hurdle success coming for Regina.
It wasn’t until a week or so into practice they realized they had a hidden hurdle gem in junior City High transfer Peyton Naeve.
“At practices the coaches asked who wanted to be a hurdler and I raised my hand,” Naeve said. “I think that was the first time they realized I was a hurdler.”
Naeve joined the group that included sisters Abby and Alli Clark and Gahan.
Suddenly, the Regals could see they were on to something.
“At the beginning of the year we didn’t think much of it but with Alli and Peyton coming in they have been really nice additions,” senior Abby Clark said. “We started racing and we saw how good our times were and we realized we could do something special.”
Gahan has taken to the shorter hurdle race well and gives Regina an imposing anchor.
Together the group has already broken the school record with a time of 1:09.28 which ranks third in 2A this season and 10th overall in the state.
“The last five or so years we haven’t had a consistent shuttle team but the way it worked this year we ran it a couple of times and it’s fun to watch them,” Swope said. “Really it is all them because three of them are doing track and soccer. It says a lot about their grit, determination and their athletic ability but also their competitiveness.”
Regina joins 2A teams Cascade and Osage and 3A Clear Creek Amana and Decorah in the top-10 in the state.
All of the top five shuttle hurdle relay times this season belong to Class 4A schools led by Waukee which has clocked a 1:02.53.
On Thursday Regina shares a heat with Osage, Mount Pleasant and Fairfield.
“It’s kind of intimidating to think about being the smaller school but it’s definitely cool that we can stick up with those teams too,” Alli Clark said. “We take a lot of pride in that.”
Classifications don’t come into play at the Drake Relays which provides teams like Regina a chance to see where they stack up against the best in the state – regardless of class.
For a relay group like Regina’s that boasts three Drake Relays newcomers it’s a chance to prove what you can do on the state’s biggest stage.
“It’s really exciting,” Gahan said. “You look at the other 2A schools that are going and one of them is in our heat so we really want to beat them. All of us are just so proud of one another. We are just so proud of us because we have all formed a bond.”