Drake Relays; Durbin high jump favorite, anchors GC relay team
By BRANDON HURLEY
Drake Relays schedule
Thursday, April 25
• 4:30 p.m. - Girls’ High Jump finals (Megan Durbin)
Friday, April 26
• 5:33 p.m. - Girls’ 4x100-meter relay prelims
Saturday, April 27
• 3:31 p.m. - Girls’ 4x100-meter relay final
A former state champion is hitting her stride, just as Mother Nature makes a turn toward the home stretch.
Thanks to a rejuvenated – and tweaked – approach, Megan Durbin is poised for a second Drake Relays title in one of her final trips to her personal sanctuary.
Greene County’s only state champion solidified her forth appearance at the spring’s most tantalizing spectacle (April 26-28) due in part to a record-tying and eye-opening week.
The senior enters Thursday’s Drake Relays with the best high jump mark in the state, tying her school record of 5-08 at last week’s Tiger-Knight Relays in Denison. It was another step forward after she snatched a return spot at the Relays clearing 5-07 just two days prior in Grimes.
The two-meet performance was by far Durbin’s best of the year (she had only cleared 5-04 in the previous meets) and fittingly put the entire state on notice, yet again.
The answer to her recent success is as simple as glancing at the daily forecast.
“I think it’s the weather,” Durbin said. “I’m a warm weather jumper.”
Her coach, Derek Merk supported those claims, as well as taking it a step further, realizing Durbin is ready for primetime, one final time.
“I think she’s just at the point where she’s kicking it in,” Merk said. “We expect great things from her on Thursday.”
Durbin swept the 2016 Drake Relays and state high jump titles as a sophomore while she finished runner up at the last spring’s Relays as well as in the Class 3A state meet.
She lost out on each championship to friendly rival, Maria Gorham of North Polk. While the defending champ is back in the Drake Relays field, Durbin bested her at the Carroll co-ed Relays last month. Gorham has yet to clear 5-05 in an outdoor meet, though she cleared the qualifying mark at the Iowa State High School Classic back on March 12 inside the Lied Recreation Center.
Durbin enters Thursday’s competition as the clear favorite in a field that boasts a pair of Drake Relays champions, two state champions and a handful of state silver medalists. Drake Stadium is where she’s shined most, and the is senior ready to put on another tantalizing display in her final season.
“I usually do pretty well at Drake Stadium,” Durbin said. “It’s all about the atmosphere. Hopefully I can jump as high as I did last week. It’s kind of a mindset. It’s all a mind game when it comes down to it.”
Durbin is the most decorated athlete in the field, boasting experience and a natural ability to remain loose. Last spring’s high jump finals were moved inside due to a torrential downpour, leaving athletes to jump in a humid, cramped and poorly lit fieldhouse.
“It was super crowded,” Durbin said. “Every time someone moved in the crowd (you flinched) because they were that close to you.”
Just four athletes, including Durbin, have cleared 5-06 or better this spring, while only Durbin has posted a 5-08 mark.
Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Madison Harms cleared 5-07 to qualify while West Burlington/Notre Dame’s Rylie Todd and Linn-Mar, Marion’s Skyler Prester each have reached 5-06.
After enduring a few tweaks to her approach in the offseason, Durbin feels she has finally found her sweet spot and is ready for another shot at a Relays title.
“High jump is a bunch of little things all thrown together at the same time,” she said. “It’s arm placements, which way your feet are turned, your angle. Everything is little, but it all plays a part.
I had never been taught the little things, I just ran and jumped.”
Durbin will jump fourth thursday afternoon during the girls’ high jump final at 4:30 p.m on the infield of Drake Stadium. Gorham will jump from the 13th spot while OA-BCIG’s Sydney Durbin, who placed fifth at the 2017 Drake Relays and holds the second-best jump in 2A, will compete out of the 23rd spot.
Durbin will also anchor the girls’ 4x100-meter relay quartet of Melanie Doran, Brianna Osterson and Lilly Muir. The Rams will run out of lane one in the seventh heat, which will began around 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The quartet’s success is due to an alteration in baton handoffs.
Up until this spring, the girls had exchanged the baton near their hip, but now, the receiving runner extends her arm behind her, with the trailing athlete places the baton in the waiting hand. It’s made a world of difference, Merk said.
“I think it speaks to our athletes’ willingness to buy in, especially for the four-by-one,” the coach said. “We kind of changed it up this year to a style they weren’t accustomed to. I know that can be a tough switch, but they were able to get it taken care of and get to Drake.”
Greene County qualified with a time of 52.29, which was the 55th fastest time in the state, achieved at the April 17 DC-G Invite. Lin-Mar, Marion and Pleasant Valley enter the Drake Relays holding on to a time of 48.99, which is the fastest mark in the entire state.
The Rams will be joined in heat seven by teams from Cedar Rapids Jefferson, Davenport North, Council Bluffs Lewis Central, Van Buren, Monticello, K-P/W-C and Panorama. The top eight times will advance to Saturday’s 4x100-meter finals, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Des Moines.
The forecast for this weekend’s Drake Relays looks bright, with sunny skies and 60 degree temperatures predicted for the three-day event (April 25-28), a far cry from last year’s rain-soaked debacle.
The Drake Relays annually brings in 10s of thousands of fans, zeroing in on each individual event. It can be overwhelming, especially with Durbin as the only Ram with experience on that particular stage.
Merk is encouraging his athletes to enjoy the moment.
“The atmosphere, I think helps kids run a little better. It gets them a little amped up,” Merk said. “I’m going to tell them to have fun, enjoy the experience. It’s not something everyone gets to do in their high school career.”
No Greene County boys or Paton-Churdan track and field athletes qualified for the 2018 Drake Relays.