Megan Durbin Q&A: Saluting the best
By BRANDON HURLEY
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first part of a two part Q and A series with Greene County high jumper Megan Durbin. The senior reflects on a tremendous career which saw her bring home two Drake Relays titles and three state silver medals as well as a Drake Relays silver. Next week’s Jefferson Herald will wrap up the interview as Durbin looks ahead to the future.
Let’s take a moment to put this into proper perspective.
Megan Durbin’s fourth straight top two finish in the state high jump is a remarkable feat, one that will allow her to forever live in Greene County lore.
She was already at an iconic level prior to last week’s Iowa High School state track and field meet, but a silver medal in Friday’s 2A high jump added yet another layer to her legacy. The Ram caps her Greene County career with a 2016 state championship, two Drake Relays titles, a Drake Relays silver medal and three runner-up medals. Not too shabby, indeed.
Oh, and she’s off to Iowa State University next year, where she’ll jump for a Division-I program and frequent contender in the Big 12 Conference. Her latest medal was the toughest to attain.
Perhaps fittingly, the 2A field was the most talented, which proved even more stacked than last month’s Drake Relays, where only two girls cleared 5-05 or better. The 2A group exceeded expectations. Four jumpers cleared 5-05, while nine girls cleared 5-03.
Eventually, an under-the-radar former champ, who last won her first title way back during her freshman year in 2015, beat out Durbin to take home the top spot Friday, as Western Christian’s Cori DeJong was the only girl to clear 5-07, denying Durbin her second state title.
The 2018 high jump roster included three former state champions (Durbin, Cori DeJong and Sydney Durbin), a Drake Relays runner-up (Kiersten Fisher) as well as two-time Drake qualifier, Megan Johnk in addition to fellow Drake Relays qualifiers Emma Atwood (Central Decatur) and Albia’s Hannah Isley. The 2A high jump field was home to six of the top eight place-winners at the 2018 Drake Relays. Isley finished third Friday behind Durbin while Johnk placed fourth. Durbin also secured her first track event medal Saturday afternoon. Following a two-hour lightning and rain delay, the senior placed sixth in the 200-meter final, running to a personal best of 26.2, improving on her qualifying time of 26.51, which was the fifth fastest mark in the preliminaries.
In the first part of an incredibly candid Q and A with The Jefferson Herald, Greene County’s most decorated athlete sits down with sports editor Brandon Hurley to reflect on her final meet in Drake Stadium, her emotions, and where she sits in the Ram record books:
Jefferson Herald: Did the competitiveness of the high jump (May 18) surprise you at all?
Durbin: I was not very surprised because I knew from the placements at Drake Relays that 2A was going to be the hardest class at state track for high jumping. There are a lot of good athletes.
JH: Did that factor add extra pressure on yourself?
Durbin: I have gotten pretty comfortable at Drake Stadium so I did not feel a lot of pressure at all. I just went in with the mentality that God has a plan for me and it (was) my last time to have fun and soak up the whole experience.
JH: How would you sum up how you did in your final high jump?
Durbin: I had to run the 4x200-meter relay right before going over to high jump, which I had only had to do once or twice this season. I felt very rushed beforehand because the running events were a little ahead of schedule. I had to measure my steps without getting any practice approaches or jumps in before having to go run.
My legs felt pretty shot and the heat did not help much, but I really thought after clearing all the first heights with plenty of room that I could get over 5-07 pretty easily. My body just gave out and I couldn’t clear it the way I was hoping too.
JH: What do you think you could’ve done to win?
Durbin: I don’t know if there is anything I could have done to win, necessarily. I never pray that I will win but rather that God helps me do the best I can and that I enjoy what I’m doing with what He has blessed me to be talented in.
Running in the 4x200-meter may or may not have affected how my high jump turned out, but I wouldn’t change running with my teammates on the Blue Oval for one of the last times for a title that wasn’t in God’s plan for me to have this year. I do not blame my coaches, anyone who helped me, or even myself for not being able to bring home another state championship in the high jump.
I know that no matter what, everyone in Jefferson still loves me and supports me the same. I know that even though I didn’t win state this year like I had been hoping for, I still won Drake Relays which made my senior track season one to remember.
JH: Going off that, what were those final moments like after it ended?
Durbin: It really didn’t hit me that I hadn’t won until everyone around me looked at me in shock and I could feel my heart break. The saddest part was just thinking about all the nights I had prayed for God to be with me and to help me to my best, the early mornings and late practices, the offseason coaching and completely changing my approach and everything I had known so well with my jump, all the dreams I had about being able to tell my kids someday that I won state twice, all the injuries that (put me) behind that I had fought through, and most of all, the memories of my success and talking with the officials and other girls I had competed with.
I was so emotional right after and I could tell everyone felt bad for me and the officials kept saying, ‘It’s not fair to you.’
I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to people, but my teammates came to me and hugged me while I cried. I also had my friend Maria Gorham (from North Polk) and multiple Carroll girls, who I’ve always been friends with, trying to comfort me which helped a little. Overall, I tried to keep telling myself that God has plans for me at Iowa State next year, and maybe even at the Senior All Star Meet in June.
JH: You spoke quite a long time with the officials after, you’ve spent so many meets at Drake Stadium, what was it like getting to know them over the last four years?
Durbin: It was always very comforting knowing that I could always talk to the officials and joke around with them. I enjoyed them always being so nice to me and always congratulating me, even when the outcome wasn’t exactly what I had wanted, like my last high jump experience in a Greene County jersey.
One official in particular, Jay Gruenwald, was always extremely nice to me and always talked to me and cheered me up whenever I was feeling down. He always sent me notes in the mail along with any pictures people had gotten of us, and even a couple tickets for my parents for Drake Relays. He officiates at Iowa State, so I know I will be able to see him there too. It’s crazy how something so simple can create a life long friendship.
I always knew that I was loved on the Blue Oval and was always told that my smile is contagious and my sportsmanship is one-of-a -kind. The officials also told me that I was always one of their favorites, which made me love going there and experiencing everything even more.
JH: As a whole, how did you feel the younger girls on the team handled the big stage over the weekend?
Durbin: For the most part, they seemed excited and not extremely nervous. I know that they were somewhat intimidated at first, but really enjoyed the experience and had a lot of fun running with the team and being down on the Blue Oval.
Melanie Doran, a returning state runner and a junior, helped me calm a couple of the freshmen girls down when they got worked up. It was nice having her there with me again to explain to the girls that state is about having fun and soaking in the experience. One freshman in particular, Brianna Osterson, was very upset that I wasn’t going to be around next year since I had always pushed her to go into the weight room with me, run faster, try harder, not get anxious or worked up, and to try to pray more often before doing events. She began working with me a lot in the offseason and I expect her to kind of take charge next year along with Melanie, and set the pace for the other girls. I know Brianna will keep the things I have taught her in mind and become an even more amazing athlete and I am excited to come back the next few years and see her and everyone elses’ improvements.
Part II of the Megan Durbin Q and A will run in next week’s Jefferson Herald Sports (June 6), where she reflects on the final moments of her high school career and what she expects of herself at Iowa State University.