It’s the feeling that you’re in the presence of greatness that sets the Drake Relays apart.
For high school athletes, the chance to rub elbows with Olympians, other professionals and college All-Americans can’t be overstated.
“I think for a lot of them, it’s more exciting to get to Drake than it is to state,’’ Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln girls coach Don Schwartz said. “Not that it’s any less important, but there’s just a bigger presence with all the Olympians and the college athletes that are there. They get to see that higher-quality competition, and what it’s like at the next level. And I think every kid walks away from that dreaming, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that,’ or ‘What if that were me?’’’
The 110th edition of “America’s Athletic Classic’’ will begin a three-day run for high school athletes on Thursday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
Some big names from western Iowa are among those with the ability to contend for the coveted white flags that go to all Drake champions:
Abraham Lincoln senior Darby Thomas, a Nebraska recruit, is the two-time defending champion in the long jump. Her personal best of 19 feet, 5 inches is third on Iowa’s all-time list. She has qualified second in the 100 (12.03) and 100 hurdles (14.71), and third in the long jump (18-4¼). Last year, Thomas placed third in the Drake 100.
“She seems to have those unteachable abilities that you just can’t coach,’’ Schwartz said. “The ability to just rise to the occasion. The bigger the event, the more locked in she tends to be, and that’s just things you can’t coach. She seems to have those big moments in great venues, so that’s a great attribute for her.’’
Glenwood senior Janette Schraft, an Iowa State recruit, turned in four top-seven finishes last year at Drake while competing for East Mills. She placed third in the 400 hurdles, fourth in the 800 and 1,500, and seventh in the 3,000.
Schraft has qualified in all four events. Based on this season’s performances, she’s ranked first in the 400 hurdles (1:04.83), third in the 800 (2:14.95) and 1,500 (4:45.81), and fourth in the 3,000 (10:19.74).
“What Janette Schraft has been able to do I just think is incredible,’’ Schwartz said.
On the boys’ side, Council Bluffs Lewis Central junior Logan Jones has the state’s top effort in the discus (176-7) this season. He placed fourth in the event last year. Jones also has the sixth-best entry in the shot put.
Sioux City East senior Ardell Inlay has Iowa’s fastest time in the 100 (10.74) this season.
“I think sometimes (western) Iowa gets a little overlooked,’’ Schwartz said. “I love to see that we have great talent.’’
Other returning western Iowa individuals who earned top-five Drake finishes last year include Atlantic senior Chase Mullenix, third in the boys 800; Bedford senior Emma Lucas, fourth in the girls 3,000; Lewis Central junior Lauren Payne, fourth in the girls discus; and OABCIG senior Sydney Durbin, tied for fourth in the girls high jump.
Before getting into coaching, Schwartz qualified twice for the Drake Relays long jump in high school (Dubuque Senior) and twice in college (Northern Iowa), with a career long of 23-6. He said it’s important to keep things simple when athletes are a bit out of their element.
“Focus on the little things that you can control,’’ he said. “Because in an atmosphere like that, there’s a lot of distractions. The size of the stadium, the amount of people in the crowd, the competition that you’re against.’’
Here is the high school school schedule for the Drake Relays, with western Iowa participants in parentheses. Events are finals unless noted.
4 p.m.: Girls discus (Elle Scarborough, Glenwood; Nicole Jacobson, Sioux City Heelan; Lauren Payne, CB Lewis Central; Kelsey Fields, Creston; Logan Hughes, Shenandoah; Kelsey Onken, Carroll)
4:30: Boys high jump (Jack Tiarks, Treynor)
4:30: Boys shot put (Blake Wiederhold, Sioux City East; Kobe Clayborne, Sioux City Heelan; Logan Jones, CB Lewis Central)
5: Girls long jump (Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln)
5:25: Boys 3,200 (Jerry Jorgenson, Treynor)
5:40: Girls 3,000 (Emma Lucas, Bedford; Janette Schraft, Glenwood)
8 a.m.: Girls 100 hurdles preliminaries (Laken Gardner, Sioux City East; Elle Scarborough, Glenwood; Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln)
8:15: Boys 110 high hurdles preliminaries (Max Murphy, Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Ethan Bernard, CB St. Albert)
8:30: Girls 100 prelims (Anna Winterrowd, OABCIG; Holly Duax, Sioux City West; Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln; Caitlyn Jones, CB Thomas Jefferson)
8:30: Girls shot put (Kelsey Fields, Creston; Hope Wagner, Sioux City West; Logan Hughes, Shenandoah; Lauren Payne, CB Lewis Central; Sydney Biermann, Glenwood)
8:40: Boys 100 prelims (Ardell Inlay, Sioux City East; Amos Rasmussen, IKM-Manning; Josh Heather, West Monona; Jorma Schwedler, Sergeant Bluff-Luton)
9: Boys discus (Discus: Logan Jones, CB Lewis Central; Derec Weyer, Harlan)
9:30: Boys long jump (Kyle Berg, Carroll Kuemper; Ardell Inlay, Sioux City East; Michael Erlmeier, Harlan)
9:45: Girls high jump (Sydney Durbin, OABCIG; Coryl Matheny, Glenwood)
9:49: Girls sprint medley relay (Sioux City East; Glenwood)
10:02: Boys distance medley relay (Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Atlantic)
10:31: Girls 100 hurdles
10:36: Boys 110 high hurdles
12:40 p.m.: Girls 800 relay (CB Abraham Lincoln; Glenwood; Sioux City East)
12:53: Boys 800 relay (Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Sioux City East)
2:02: Girls 800 (Amber Aesoph, Sioux City Heelan; Janette Schraft, Glenwood; Kaia Downs, Sioux City East)
2:09: Boys 800 (Craig Alan Becker, Atlantic; Chase Mullenix, Atlantic; Dylan Blake, MVAOCOU)
2:20: Girls 100
2:25: Boys 100
5:34: Girls 3,200 relay
5:48: Boys 3,200 relay
6:49: Girls 400 (Madison Jochum, Sioux City Heelan)
6:55: Boys 400 (Chase Mullenix, Atlantic; Brayden Wollan, Underwood; Sam Rallis, CB St. Albert; Jorma Schwedler, Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Zade Niklasen, Atlantic)
8:21: Girls 1,600 relay prelims (Treynor; Atlantic; Sergeant Bluff-Luton; Sioux City Heelan)
8:39: Boys 1,600 relay prelims (Sergeant Bluff-Luton; CB St. Albert; Harlan; Atlantic)
8 a.m.: Girls shuttle hurdle relay prelims (Glenwood)
8:15: Boys shuttle hurdle relay prelims (Sergeant Bluff-Luton)
9:28: Girls 400 relay prelims (Sioux City West; Sioux City East; CB Abraham Lincoln; Treynor; OABCIG; Nodaway Valley; Glenwood; Harlan; CB Lewis Central; CB Thomas Jefferson; Denison-Schleswig; Carroll; Sergeant Bluff-Luton)
10:03: Boys 400 relay prelims (Sioux City East; Sioux City Heelan; Sergeant Bluff-Luton; OABCIG; Glenwood; CB St. Albert; Sioux City North; West Monona)
12:10 p.m.: Girls shuttle hurdle relay
12:15: Boys shuttle hurdle relay
1:11: Girls 400 hurdles (Janette Schraft, Glenwood)
1:18: Boys 400 hurdles
3:32: Girls 400 relay
3:37: Boys 400 relay
4:20: Girls 1,500 (Emma Lucas, Bedford; Amber Aesoph, Sioux City Heelan; Janette Schraft, Glenwood)
4:26: Boys 1,600 (Jerry Jorgenson, Treynor)
4:43: Girls 1,600 relay
4:49: Boys 1,600 relay