Drake Relays: Title Defense
By BRANDON HURLEY
Tightening her grip on the high jump crown won’t be easy.
Greene County’s Megan Durbin captured an elusive Drake Relays championship in the high jump last spring, besting athletes from all four classes in Iowa.
Turn the page to the 2017 Relays and the junior is poised to make a run at a historic feat - back-to-back individual titles.
But, the 2016 state champion has tempered her expectations a bit, acknowledging the magnitude of the task at hand.
“It’s hard to get on top but it’s harder to stay on top,” Durbin said. “I made it, who knows what will happen. There are a lot of girls ahead of me in the state right now.”
Durbin cleared 5-04 at the Ram Relays back on April 17 in Jefferson to qualify for Friday’s Drake Relays. She cleared 5-06 and eventually a school record-setting 5-08 in 2016 to win the title, soaring higher than everyone in a field that included girls from Iowa City High, Waukee, Johnston and Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
The then sophomore easily cleared 5-feet a season ago in one jump, cleared 5-02 on her second jump, 5-04 on her fourth jump and secured the title clearing 5-06 on her third jump. She only needed two jumps at each height to clear 5-07 and 5-08 to cap her record-setting morning.
Greene County head coach Kelly Simpson is with his star athlete in tempering expectations, helping her maintain a businesslike attitude to allow Durbin to get in a groove.
“I think the key for Megan this year down at Drake is to stay calm, and enjoy the experience,” the coach said. “If we start micro-analyzing each missed jump, we will go out early. Megan needs to stay positive and confident and we need to try to get her into a rhythm. That rhythm is what led her to a victory and a monster jump of 5-8.”
Durbin will square off against eight girls that have cleared a state-leading 5-06 this spring. Five girls have cleared 5-05 while Durbin sits in a group of nine that has cleared 5-04.
The field looks to be a step up from 2016 when Durbin won with relative ease. Matching her school record again may be in order for a shot at repeating.
“The competition field down at Drake is tougher than compared to last year,” Simpson said. “Many 5-06 jumps are in the books and who ever stays most consistent in their early attempts at each height will come out the winner. That might be at 5-06 or higher this year.”
Though she realizes forecasted rain could be a detriment Friday morning, Durbin is realistic with her expectations.
“It’s going to be really crappy weather,” she said. “I’m not a bad weather jumper, I’m a good weather jumper. So we will see what’s in store, I guess.”
The forecast, as of Wednesday afternoon, calls for a high of 53 on Friday with possible rain showers and wind gusts of 17 mph. Not the most ideal situation for high jumpers.
Durbin will stick to the routine that helped her win a title last spring, enjoying a carb-load the night before with a hearty meal of pasta while she keeps her steps and preparation the same as it has been all season long.
The last girls’ repeat high jump winner came in 2008-2010 when Dike-New Hartford’s Hannah Willms won three consecutive titles, setting a Drake Relays record of 6-01.
The significance of qualifying for yet another Drake Relays isn’t lost on Durbin’s coach. Simpson knows how much of an honor just stepping onto the track at Drake Stadium is. Another title won’t make or break Durbin’s season, though.
“Winning is is great, but just being invited to Drake is the big deal,” Simpson said. “We’re in the hunt now. So, jumping well, medalling, maybe even winning again is just the icing and cherry on top. “
The junior is slated as the 19th jumper Friday morning with the high jump final beginning at 9:45 a.m. on the south side of the football field. There are 24 athletes enlisted in the high jump.
Durbin has her eyes set on clearing at least 5-04 Friday. Whether that earns her a medal or another Relays title is up to her competitors. Perhaps the dreary, rain drenched conditions will play to her advantage.
“Last year at this time, I was clearing 5-04 all the time but I’ve only done it once this year,” she said. “It depends on the day, but it’ll be bad weather for everyone.”
The girls’ Drake Relays high jump champion has cleared at least 5-05 every year since 1998.
What would back-to-back Relays titles mean to the Greene County junior?
“It would be freaking sweet, but I just don’t want to get last,” a straight-faced Durbin said while cracking a partial smile.
Drake Relays girls’ HS high jump final
• 9:45 a.m., Friday, April 28
• Drake Stadium, Des Moines
• State leaders have cleared 5-06
• Durbin will jump 19th out of 24 athletes