THE EARLY LEAD: Drake is almost upon us

Mother Nature is this spring’s fiercest opponent


Sports Editor



Postponements are as notorious amongst Iowa springs as is a late full bloom. 

Except, Mother Nature has taken a stranglehold more than ever this year– in an unfortunate way – sending local prep teams and scheduling into a chaotic mess. 

Cancellations, re-scheduling and winter weather advisories have been the buzzwords of late, sending this particular sports editor into a tizzy of confusion, anxiety and honestly, a bit of boredom. 

When there aren’t events to cover, and the weather sucks, what else is there to do besides play Fortnite? 

Iowa springs are usually a mess, but this has been a year straight out of Antarctica. It’s cold there, right? 

With temperatures consistently under 40 – and more often than not below freezing – and snow storms sprinkled here and there, it makes a challenge to not only schedule practices, but to even get events in.

That’s made things a bit tricky for local prep athletes as they try to shake off the winter rust and round in to top form. 

The Ram Relays were canceled all together and local track teams have been scrambling to find meets. 

What makes this spring more chaotic than previous is the sudden deadline for Drake Relays qualification, which is 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 19. That gives Iowa athletes exactly a week to polish off their best performances of the spring. 

It’s a notion the local track programs are aware of, but have held off on pressing the panic button just yet. 

“It’s something everyone is dealing with,” Greene County boys’ track coach Chad Morton said, and feels it shouldn’t hinder his athletes too much. “They’ve prepared for these moments, even if they are restricted from hitting the track.”

Its a curious challenge for the first-year Ram coach, but not something he hasn’t dealt with before. He’s a southern Iowa native, so he knows a thing or two about spring here. 

“We practice outside any time that its above 40 degrees,” Morton said. “When it comes to meets outside, they’ll be ready. The kids have been good, everyday in practice they compete. 

They compete against each other. I think they are excited to see the rest of the season.” 

The early pinnacle of the track season are the Drake Relays in Des Moines. New for the 2018 Drake Relays is the Blue Standard qualifications, a set time, height, or distance which athletes can reach to guarantee a spot in the annual track and field event. It’s a move away from the norm of taking a set number of athletes, without a qualifying mark. In the past, the top 30-80 athletes in a given event qualified, which will remain the same, but with a slight tweak. An athlete does not need to meet the Blue Standard to qualify, but reaching it assures a spot.. Due to the hormonal flakiness of Mother Nature this spring, we will need to rely more on that old system, to a degree, due to limited numbers of qualifiers – and meets – so far. 

The Relays will commence April 26-28 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.


Here are the field limits for each event, per the Drake Relays:

All Field events - top 24 verified entries

100-meter and 100/110-meter hurdles: top 32 entries

400m hurdles: top 16 entries. Two heats as a timed final

800m: top 14-16 entries

1,500m, 1,600, 3,000, 3,200: top 21 entries


4x100m: top 80 entries

4x200m, 4x400m: top 24 entries

Medley Relays: top 24 entries (800 medley-girls, 1600 medley-boys)

4x800m, Shuttle Hurdle: top 16 entries


A handful of local athletes are sitting pretty as we approach tonight’s deadline.So let’s take a dive into Quikstats to see how the rest of the numbers stack up so far. 

Greene County’s Megan Durbin is the only Herald Publishing area athlete to achieve the Blue Standard so far, She cleared 5-07 Tuesday night at the Dallas-Center Grimes Invite, one inch off her school record and well above the 5-05 qualifying mark. It’s the best mark this spring, in the entire state. 

The senior captured the 2016 Drake Relays title and was runner-up to North Polk’s Maria Gorham last spring. She also won the 2016 state title and has never finished worse than second at state. 

- Class 2A defending state champion, Miles Rupiper of Kuemper is safely under the cutline in the boys’ long jump, sitting at No. 10 in the state with a leap of 21-10.25.

He also won the 2017 high jump title and is sitting in an 11-way tie for the 13th spot  this spring at 6-04. 

- Joseph Zaiger’s Audubon school record discus toss of 165 feet puts him in sole possession of ninth place in the state, well below the cut-off. 

- Greene County’s girls 4x100-meter relay of Melanie Doran, Brianna Osterson, Lily Muir and Megan Durbin are relaxing comfortably at No. 53, having run a 52.29 Tuesday in Grimes. 

- Likewise, the Greene County boys’ 4x100-meter relay of Carter Morton, Lance Hughes, Tyler Teeples and Colby Kafer is sitting at No. 65 in the state, currently, with a time of 45.2. 

- South Central Calhoun’s quartet of Nic Englin, Tanner Macke, Chase McAlister and Spencer Moon are 23rd in the 1,600-meter medley with a time of 3:40.98 to round things out. 

As you can see – and it continues to go on and on – the new qualifying standards could be in some murky water (excuse the pun) in its first year. None of these are set in stone, we could see quite a bit change tonight. Wth clear skies and better-than-what-we’ve-seen temperatures this evening, we may get a few more qualifiers. 

Only time – and Mother Nature – will tell. 

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