BRUSHING SHOULDERS WITH THE ELITE
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES - The big dogs got theirs over the weekend, but left one local squad starving for more.
The Greene County boys’ track and field team tightened their focus as they battled among the state’s elite at the 110th Drake Relays last week.
It was the perfect appetizer for a thriving Rams’ squad touching down at one of the nation’s most historic track meets.
Greene County took four events to Des Moines April 25-27 and came away with a top 10 finish as well as some much needed experience.
Naturally, the relative bright lights of Drake Stadium took its toll on several of the Rams, but overall, head coach Chad Morton was pleased with what he saw from his five athletes.
“Getting experience being in an environment like that, especially since none of them had ever performed at the Drake Relays before,” Morton said. “Getting a chance to compete (was my biggest takeaway).
None of them were necessarily satisfied with their performances, but they came away understanding the opportunity (of where) they got to perform.”
Carter Morton was the torch-bearer in the high jump, finishing sixth overall by clearing 6-05 in a loaded field, earning a monumental spot on the medal stand. Morton came in with the third highest jump in the state, clearing 6-08 a few weeks early, but knew he’d be tested in a group of 12 jumpers that had cleared 6-05 or better.
Sibley-Ocheyedan’s Grant Brouwer won the Drake Relays title by clearing 6-09 on his second attempt. Northeast’s Braeden Hoyer also cleared 6-09, but on his third attempt to finish runner-up.
Carter shared a rare moment with his father and coach, Chad, who’s spent many years officiating the Drake Relays in addition to winning a few state titles at CAL-Latimer High School. The father was right alongside the younger Morton as he rose through the ranks of the high jump, offering critiques and support after each attempt.
“It is very much different. I was talking to some other coaches in the coaching box and they had talked about how they had an opportunity to coach their sons as well,” Chad said. “It’s totally different when it’s your kid (your’e coaching). You try to keep that coach mentality but it’s difficult to keep them separate.
It was a great opportunity for me and Carter to have that experience together. I couldn’t be happier, he jumped really well.”
Despite Morton’s quality afternoon Thursday, April 25, no other Greene County event managed to crack the top 20. The 4-by-100-meter relay squad of Tyler Teeples, Carter Morton, Brent Riley and Colby Kafer placed in a tie for 46th overall following their preliminary heat, finishing with a time of 44.92. West Des Moines Valley was the eventual Drake Relays champion, running a finals-winning time of 42.48 Saturday afternoon.
The relative inexperience of a young Rams squad shone through a bit during the three-day meet, as a slew of athletes struggled to meet their own sky-high expectations.
Junior Tyler Miller scratched on two of his throws in the shot put, collecting just one throw of 45-09 which earned him 26th place out of 27 throwers. University of Iowa football commit Noah Fenske of New Hampton won the event title with a top throw of 60-11.25.
Kafer scratched on all three of his long jump attempts for the first time in his career, failing to place in the 24-member field. After cracking the 20-foot mark in every meet this spring, the junior was a little off racing down the Drake Stadium runway.
“The ones that were, if you want to say underperformed, we learned stuff to make them better,” coach Morton said. “Even though we may not have came away with the performance they wanted, we learned some things.”
Dike-New Hartford’s Parker Klewiet captured victory with a top throw of 22-08.
Kafer knows where he needs to tighten up his footwork on the long jump runway while Miller endured the intense pressure of high level shot put.
“(Tyler) experienced being out of his element,” Morton said. “It was a little overwhelming for him. He was disappointed with his performance but to have the opportunity to throw inside the middle of all the action at Drake Stadium is not something a lot of kids get to do. It was just a matter of being there and taking it all in.”
The 4-by-100 quartet missed trimming down on their season-best qualifying time of 44.64.”
The Rams continue to put in work, which has paid off big time this spring. It boils down to the voluntary offseason drills each athlete chose to dedicate time to. Not only do they strive for personal improvement, but they also keep tabs on the competition.
“They knew who was (in Des Moines) from our district and who the top guys in the state are,” Morton said. “It’s great experience (being at Drake), but they also wanted to stick around after and watch. They wanted to watch guys run and learn from them.
I was a proud coach at that moment. You know that it means something to them to buy into this.”