CLINTON – For some high school track and field athletes, the Drake Relays are more important than the state meet. Clinton junior throwers Erika Hammond and Sydney Laufenberg are excited about the opportunities that await them when the core three-day portion of the meet begins today at Drake Stadium.
“It’s a lot bigger than state considering it’s not divided up (by school size),” Laufenberg said. “I’m excited to go there this year.”
“It’s the best of the best,” Hammond said.
Laufenberg, a two-time Class 1A state champion in the discus, is competing in Class 4A this spring after transferring to Clinton High, but she will compete against the best from all four classes today and Friday at Drake.
She and Hammond will represent the River Queens in both the shot put and discus events. Hammond has thrown 132 feet, 2 inches, with Laufenberg just 3 inches behind her in the discus, which is part of this afternoon’s competition.
“My first goal is to make the top 10, then try to place higher,” Laufenberg said.
“For discus, I hope top 10,” Hammond said. “I’m not real worried about discus; I’m just really glad I qualified.”
They turn their attention to the shot put Friday, where Hammond has reached 45-11 and Laufenberg 40-4.
“I’m hoping top four for shot put for Drake, and I just want to PR out there, too,” Hammond said. “I think with all the adrenaline out there it would be fun and I’d be able to PR.”
Hammond views Drake as a big-picture opportunity.
“I think it’s a better experience (than the state meet) because a lot of colleges are out there, too, and they can watch you,” she said.
“College coaches are paying attention,” Clinton Coach Tony Steen said. “They’re worrying about theirs, but they’re always keeping an eye on (the high school talent).”
Another area athlete sure to draw the attention of college coaches is Northeast junior Aleenah Marcucci. She will compete in both girls hurdles events and the long jump.
Marcucci’s first event is today’s long jump. She qualified at 18 feet, 1.5 inches. Muscatine’s Larkin Chapman has the best qualifying distance (19-2.75).
“I try to keep tabs on where I’m at,” Marcucci said after last week’s meet in Clinton. “I just try and go out and do the best I can.”
Marcucci has the fastest qualifying team (14.9 seconds) and will run out of Lane 4 in the third of four heats Friday morning in the 100 hurdles. She is one of eight qualifiers in Saturday’s 400 hurdles. Her qualifying time was 1:04.84; Sarah Plock of Iowa City High had the best qualifying time of 1:00.55.
“Corners are so tight,” Marcucci said. “I had a good experience running on the inside lanes (at state), and I got a PR out of it ... I can see everyone better on inside lanes.”
Northeast also qualified in Friday afternoon’s 400-meter relay. The Rebels will run in the sixth of 10 heats.
Tierra Hildebrandt will be a part of that 400-meter relay, and it will be her fourth time competing at the Drake Relays.
“It doesn’t get old,” she said. “I guess it’s special since it’s my last one, so I guess I have to give it my all. I know we’re in the middle, so the goal is to get a PR and get better, and to of course, have fun.”
Nick Kennicker will compete in the lone heat of the 400 hurdles on Saturday in lane No. 5. He will compete against Wyatt Rhoads, the son of Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads.
Camanche and Clinton boys will also get some exposure at the blue oval this weekend. Thomas Brantley will compete in the 100 hurdles on Friday morning in heat No. 3 in lane five.
The Indians and River Kings will both compete in the 400 relay tomorrow night. Camanche is in the eighth heat while Clinton is in heat 10 with Davenport Assumption.
Clinton will also feature its 800 and 1,600 relay teams this weekend. Those who will compete for the River Kings will be Marquis Robinson, Quavon Jones, Jimmy Bell, Amani Larson, and Barrion Collins.
Bellevue’s Andrew Meyer will run today in the 3,200 run and then in the 1,600 run on Saturday.