DES MOINES - AGWSR track and field coach Jason Berkey didn't have a distance goal in mind for Clay Meinders.
All Berkey wanted was for his Cougar junior to find a way to get to the finals.
Meinders was uncertain if that goal would get accomplished after his first three preliminary throws were around 3 feet shorter than his qualifying throw.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
AGWSR junior Clay Meinders advanced to the finals in the high school boys’ shot put on Friday and then moved up a few places to finish seventh overall at the 105th Drake Relays. Meinders’ best throw covered 51 feet, 11 3/4 inches.
But he snuck into the finals with the last qualifying toss and then moved up a few spots on his first heave of the finals and made sure he went out with his best as Meinders finished seventh overall in the high school boys' shot put at the 105th Drake Relays on Friday morning.
Meinders, who qualified for the Relays with a throw better than 53 feet, claimed his final finish with a toss of 51-11 3/4.
"It was all right. I threw a little better yesterday than I threw today," said Meinders referring to the Cougars' track meet on Thursday. "I had high hopes, but I am happy with where I placed since it was my first time here."
Meinders placed second at last year's Class 1A state meet. Lisbon's Keegan Tritle beat Meinders on that day and got him again Friday as Tritle finished fifth with a toss of 52-2 3/4.
Dalton Ferguson of Solon scored a Drake Relays title with a best throw of 55-4 1/2. Ferguson's winning throw was tossed in the preliminaries but it held up through the final three throws. He was nearly 5 inches better than runner-up Jacob Barents (54-11 3/4) of Council Bluffs Lewis Central and CMB's Zach Samson was third with a throw of 53-5 1/2.
"I am not sure. It seemed like everybody was a little under today," said Meinders when asked why maybe all the throwers were under their qualifying marks. "Not sure if the atmosphere played a factor or not.
"Last year for state, we were over on the hill. This year, we were in the stadium and that was pretty cool. This is the best of the best not just the best in your class. It was fun to see those guys throw. Hopefully I can continue to get better."
Meinders was visually frustrated with his first three throws as he wasn't sure if a 50-6 1/4 was going to be enough to advance. He unleashed a 51-5 1/2 on his first throw in the finals, moved up in the standings and pumped his fist in celebration.
"I was iffy on making the finals with those first three throws," said Meinders. "Once I got in, I just told myself 'it was time to go and don't get last.' I was happy to make it to the finals. My goal was to place and I got that."
Berkey was happy for Meinders but also knows he has a lot left in him. It starts with technique, which is being tweaked a bit here and there.
"This was a neat experience for a guy who has never been to this event," said Berkey. "Clay has had some big moments in high school with state playoffs in football and state wrestling, but the Drake Relays is a new level of competition.
"I couldn't be happier for Clay, but I do think though that his best throws are still ahead of him. We are working a few technique things. I think he can get to 54 or 55. He has the ability. We just need to keep trying to find it."
Daniel Pike of Monticello edged Meinders by 1 1/2 feet for sixth. Clinton's Nathan Harden was eighth at 51-3 3/4. Kingsley-Pierson's Colton Harden, Knoxville's Nathan Winters, Dowling Catholic's Jake Krivin and Bettendorf's Wade Webster were the other throwers who surpassed 50 feet on the day.