State track: Drake champ Durbin takes aim at second state title
By BRANDON HURLEY
DES MOINES –
One final chance to stake her name among Iowa’s best of all time.
That’s really all Greene County’s Megan Durbin has left to achieve.
A pair of Drake Relays titles and a high jump state championship are career definers for most athletes, but to go out with a culminating bang is the ultimate prize.
The Ram senior has already secured her spot as Greene County’s most decorated athlete, just a few more calculated steps and she can vault her way into state supremacy.
Durbin also holds a dual role as the Rams most experienced veteran, leading a charge of fairly young competitors, minus that of fellow seniors, Laurin Lyons and Sydney Schiltz. It’s a position head coach Derek Merk said Durbin is quite familiar with.
“She’s very experienced there. I think she is going to be a big part of setting the tone, making sure the other girls are comfortable yet confident at the same time,” Merk said. “She’s done that for us all season, she’s been a great asset that way. We expect the same thing going into this week.”
Durbin is nearing rare Iowa High School heights.
Pleasant Valley’s Kelli DeGeorge was the most recent two-time high jump winner, capturing three straight 4A titles from 2013-2015. Dike-New Hartford’s Hannah Willms is the last multiple high jump title winner in 2A, securing three straight championships from 2009-2011.
Durbin will compete in four events this week, the high jump of course, the 200-meter dash, the 4x400-meter relay and the 4x200-meter relay. Securing her second state title would resonate for many years to follow, Merk said. Durbin would become just the second girl in Jefferson or Scranton school history to capture multiple state titles, in any sport (Kris Curnyn won three shot put state titles in the 1990s), while she is the only athlete in Greene County history with a state championship to her name.
So, obviously, capturing yet another gold what set a tremendous example.
“It would be huge. You hardly hear of athletes that are able to do that so consistently. It’s just the confidence (from it),” Merk said. “Kids see the success she’s had and they want to become involved in the program. I teach at the middle school and girls are already talking about next year. Having an athlete like (Megan) go such a long way helps build and maintain a program.”
Durbin will run out of lane seven in the second heat of the Class 2A 200-meter dash final at 4:20 p.m. Thursday afternoon. She’ll take her shot at completing the high jump sweep at 4:30 p.m. Friday on the Drake Stadium infield. She’ll jump 23rd in the field of 24, hoping to out duel Drake Relays runner-up Kiersten Fisher (Southeast Valley) and last year’s 2A runner-up, Sydney Durbin of OA-BCIG.
Just three upperclassmen will lead the fleet of Rams this week. Of the eight state qualifiers, three are freshman (Lillian Muir, Makala Kafer, Brianna Osterson) while Izzy Bravard is a sophomore and Melanie Doran is a junior. It’s a testament to the rising talent the first-year head coach has at his disposal.
“It’s a good way you know to end the season,” Merk said, referencing the six state qualifying events. “It gives the girls going into next year some confidence. We’ll obviously miss Durbin, but I think we’ll have plenty of girls who’ll be able to step up. We have some depth. We have a bright future ahead. So looking I’m looking forward to that.”
Three relay squads qualified for the 2018 state meet, which pleased the Greene County head coach. The Rams have sprinkled in a new baton transfer technique. Instead of exchanging it at the hip, the athletes extend their arm out back as the trailing runner places the baton in the open hand. The experiments didn’t stop there. Merk shook up a few relay lineups as well.
“The way we stacked the relays, we had certain expectations of what we’d be able to do at state. I know on paper, a lot of people ask what in the world we were doing,” the coach said. “But I think our four-by-four, there’s potential for a top eight. That’s why we kind of stack those particular relays.”
The quartet of Osterson, Doran, Muir and Durbin ran a season-best in the 4x400-meter relay (4:22.78) to finish second last Thursday in Manson, earning an automatic bid. They ran the 24th fastest time among state qualifiers. The foursome will run in lane eight of heat one in the 4x400-meter preliminaries at 7 p.m. Friday evening.
The quartet of Doran, Osterson, Durbin and Kafer ran 1:50.63 in the 4x200-meter as well, placing third, earning an at-large bid. They ran the 19th fastest time among qualifiers and will run out of section one, lane three during the 4x200-meter finals at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
The shuttle hurdle relay of Doran, Schiltz, Bravard and Muir placed fourth at the state qualifying meet (1:10.6), but earned an at-large bid with the 20th-best mark in the state. They’ll run out of lane seven in heat five of the shuttle hurdle prelims at 7:40 p.m. Thursday night.
Lyons broke the Greene County school record in the shot put with a throw of 35-09.5 last week, the 20th best qualifying mark. She’ll throw at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon out of the fifth spot in the first flight.
Additionally, Muir and Osterson both qualified in the long jump, leading the throng of freshman. They both have instrumental roles on two of the relays. Despite their youth, Merk knows the freshman, including Kafer as well, will rise to the occasion inside Drake Stadium.
“Coach Pat (Gerhardt) really worked a lot with them in the couple days leading up to districts to fine tune their steps,” Merk said. “They know what they’re capable of. We’re just going to reiterate that and to be confident. I’ll tell them to enjoy the moment and they’ll do well.”
Osterson qualified with the 15th best jump at 16-02 while Muir earned an at-large bid with a leap of 15-10. Muir will jump second in the first flight while Osterson is seeded 10th. The 2A long jump begins at 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The 2018 state track and field meet began at 9 a.m. Thursday and concludes Saturday afternoon.
Follow along for live updates on Twitter (@brandonjhurley).