Your Prep Sports
As a two-time Drake Relays champion Ashlyn Keeney is well versed on the procedures surrounding the 112-year old meet.
Even with all her experience at the prestigious Drake Relays in the days leading up to the annual meet Keeney had a rather pressing question for her coach.
“I was talking to (coach Tonya) McDonough and asked what would happen if I didn’t qualify,” Keeney said. “I was so nervous.”
It seems odd to say but up until the final hours before the qualifying deadline for the high school portion of 112th edition of the Drake Relays that opens on Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Keeney the defending champion in the 1,500 and one of the top distance runners in the state was not qualified.
Keeney entered the Forwald/Coleman Relays at City High last Thursday with the 24th fastest time 1,500 in the state.
The top 21 qualify for the Drake Relays.
“I was really worried,” Keeney said. “I knew I could qualify but I was worried it wouldn’t happen, I was down to my last chance.”
Keeney rendered her previous question for McDonough irrelevant and calmed her own winning the 1,500 at the Forwald/Coleman Relays in a Drake Relays Blue Standard qualifying time of 4:43.31.
The time of 4:43.31 is second fastest in the state this season trailing only Mid-Prairie sophomore Danielle Hostetler who ran a 4:41.71 last Thursday.
“My coach is amazing,” Keeney said. “All my coaches have really helped me to keep my stress level down and they were telling me I could do it I just needed the right day.”
Weather was a key factor in keeping Keeney from posting a qualifying time earlier in the season.
The 2019 Drake Relays 3,200 champion and last year’s 1,500 champ at the event, Keeney had only run the 1,500 two times prior to last week’s Blue Standard time.
A few meet cancellations paired with less than ideal conditions at the meets that were held had Keeney wondering if she would even have a chance to defend her title.
Keeney didn’t just qualify she went nearly three seconds under the Blue Standard time of 4:46 and came within four seconds of her Drake Relays winning time of 4:39.24 from a year ago.
“I kept asking McDonough what would happen if I didn’t qualify and she told me I was in other event and I kept thinking I won this event last year I have to qualify,” Keeney said. “I was very, very nervous. I was talking to some of the other racers and we said we are all going for this, let’s work together, lets push each other.”
Keeney will now attempt to put the finishing touches on what has been a stellar career at the Drake Relays.
For the first time in her impressive career the Iowa State recruit will compete in the 800, 1,500 and 3,000 at the Drake Relays for the first time.
Keeney was runner-up in the 800 in 2019.
She enters with the eighth fastest time in the 800 and 11th fastest time in the 3,000.
“I am just so thankful and so excited,” Keeney said. “It’s such an incredible experience.”