By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — It's not one of the better-liked events in a track and field meet, but it suits Jason Banker just fine. And, in a short time, the Clinton High senior has become one of the state's best in the 400-meter hurdles.
Saturday, Banker will run with the rest of the best at the Drake Relays, one of 15 area entrants at the prestigious meet. He made the elite field of eight when he ran this season's fourth-fastest time in any class at last Tuesday's Gateway Classic.
While that 54.77-second clocking is well off the CHS record, it's astonishing since it's a new event for him.
"Absolutely," Banker said when asked if he had surprised himself with how well he has done. "I didn't think I'd have a chance (at Drake)."
But Saturday afternoon around 2 p.m. he'll find himself on the blue oval at Drake Stadium, getting ready to run in an event he never even tried until this spring. By the time the state meet rolls around in May, he might be able to contend for the Class 4A title.
Running on the Drake track is not new for Banker. Last year, he qualified for state in the 400-meter dash and also ran the second leg on the River Kings' 1,600-meter relay unit that took fifth in the state meet at Drake Stadium. He also will compete in that event at Drake — with three new teammates — but he can focus more on his individual events this season.
"Last year we were more focused on the four-by-4(00)," he said. "This year, I thought I'd give it a try. Coach said that I could do decent."
He did better than decent from the start. While he still needs work in the technical aspects of the race, Banker's experience in the open 400 has benefited him well in the hurdles event.
"I like it more than the open 400," he said. "The hurdles break up the race into 10 to 11 different parts. Being a 400 runner, it's (an advantage) at the beginning and end where you go as fast as you can. I feel like my 400 experience gives me some endurance at the end."
The Drake experience should give Banker an idea of where he stands among the statewide competition. Then, he can try to get his times closer to those of school record-holder Ethan Holmes (52.47), who won the state title in the event in 2008 and was second in 2009.
Drake qualifiers Here is a list of area track athletes who have qualified for this week's Drake Relays in Des Moines, along with the time and day of the event. Thursday Name School Event Time Sarah Schoel Central DeWitt long jump 3:30 p.m. Friday Name School Event Time Aubree Taylor Maquoketa 100 hurdles 8 a.m. Jake Feldpausch Central DeWitt 100 8:46 a.m. Deshond Robinson Clinton 100 8:46 a.m. Justin Alden Cal-Wheat long jump 9:30 a.m. Josh Kirk Maquoketa long jump 9:30 a.m. Clinton boys 800 relay 1:27 p.m. Northeast girls 400 relay 5:15 p.m. Camanche boys 400 relay 6 p.m. Clinton boys 400 relay 6 p.m. Central DeWitt boys 400 relay 6 p.m. Maquoketa boys 400 relay 6 p.m. Clinton boys 1,600 relay 9:05 p.m. Central DeWitt boys 1,600 relay 9:05 p.m. Saturday Name School Event Heat Time Jason Banker Clinton 400 hurdles 2:03 p.m.