Bobcat relay wins heat, improves seeding by 29 spots
DES MOINES — Only a handful of individuals and relay teams get to win a race at the Drake Relays. Counted in that handful is the Marshalltown girls 4×100-meter relay team.
Bobcat sprinters Kierra Gardner, Sara Trowbridge, Alyvia Chadderdon and Abbey Welden combined to run a season-best 52.59 seconds in the 110th running of the Drake Relays on Saturday, and that time was good enough to win the 12th and final heat.
More than that, the MHS girls moved up 29 spots to place 64th overall after entering as the 93rd seed out of 96 qualifiers.
After the race Welden, who anchored the relay and was the only girl on the team who didn’t compete at the Drake Relays last year, said she was a bundle of nerves but it all melted away when she received the handoff from Chadderdon.
“I was fine leading up until I had to put my tape out, but then I got very nervous,” she said. “I had to keep reminding myself that it was only a 100. Once I got the baton all the nerves went away and I just ran.”
Welden was in a great position when she got the handoff, and she was able to continue the momentum while running down the home stretch with thousands of fans looking on.
“Honestly, with a 100 it’s just about finishing,” she said. “I was pumping my arms really hard, bringing my knees up, thinking about form, just doing everything that I could to keep the lead.”
This year the number of entrants to the 4×100 moved up from 80 to 96, so Chadderdon said the girls were actually surprised when they learned they had made it.
“I think most of us were a little hesitant because we didn’t think we were even going to make the Drake Relays,” she said. “We have prom later, so we were just thinking, ‘OK, we’re going to go run this morning in the rain, it’s going to be so great.’ But I’m really impressed.”
Coming in at the back of the pack was actually an ideal position for the Bobcat girls, as Chadderdon said it let them not think about the situation and just go run.
“I think it honestly was because we were so at ease with what was going on. We didn’t even think we were going to make it, so we were like, ‘well dang, let’s just go run,'” she said. “I was even thinking if I really wanted to run, since I did it last year, but then I just remembered in 10 or 20 years I’m not going to want to think about how I skipped the Drake Relays, since this is an experience.
“Coming and winning our heat from our 100th place or whatever we were, prom is not even going to compare.”
Welden not only had to anchor and keep the girls in front of their heat competitors, she had to do so while filling in for a Marshalltown athletics legend who graduated a year ago.
“I had to take over for Regan Mazour, which are big shoes to fill,” she said. “I am very honored, I love running the anchor and I am glad [head coach Chad Pietig] chose to put me in it. It really makes the hard work pay off and I love running with the girls, it’s a great relay.”
Chadderdon, the lone senior not only on the relay team but in Bobcat girls track in general, said if that was the last time she runs on the Blue Oval, she is happy to do it with the likes of Gardner, Trowbridge and Welden.
“Being the only senior in the majority of the sports that I play, I just really appreciate girls that want to be in athletics and girls that want to run hard and play hard,” Chadderdon said. “Just being with these girls specifically on the 4×100, I really think all of them work really hard and want to do their best like I want to do my best, and I really appreciate everything they do.”
TROJANS FINISH 42ND
The Bobcats weren’t the only area girls team who were in action in the 4×100, as the South Tama County team of Caitlyn Stochl, Ashton Graham, Stacey Slaven and JoJo Tyynismaa also earned a qualification.
Before the race, however, Graham had to be scratched and Shelby Slaven took her place. The late change didn’t throw off the Trojans, however, as they still ran a 51.74 to place fourth in their heat and 42nd overall.
Tyynismaa, who ran the anchor leg as a freshman in her first Drake Relays, said even with the change that morning her and the rest of the team felt comfortable in their race.
“Handoffs were something we were a little iffy on since we weren’t able to practice, but I definitely think we did good on those today,” she said.
Though this is her first Drake Relays, it wasn’t Tyynismaa’s first race, as she placed 18th in the 100 hurdles with a career-best 15.62 seconds on Friday. She said that experience helped her run the anchor on Saturday, but the stark contrast in weather between the two days was less than ideal.
“The weather wasn’t as good but I think we still performed the best that we could today,” she said.
In a bit of poetic symbolism, Tyynismaa took the handoff for the anchor leg from Stacey Slaven in the third position. Slaven, a four-time Drake Relays qualifier, wrapped up her final showing at the Blue Oval by both literally and figuratively handing the baton to a freshman who has a chance to repeat her feat, and Tyynismaa said that was not lost on her.
“Having me as a freshman anchoring a relay that has mostly upperclassmen, I feel like I have a big responsibility but I just really want to make sure we run what we should,” she said.
GARBER’S FINAL HURDLE
After placing second in the 110 hurdles on Friday and running a top-10 all-time performance, BCLUW senior Jack Garber got to wrap up his career at the Drake Relays with his teammates.
The Comets were in the first event of the day, with Garber joining Coby Willett, Koty Kruse and Neifer Ralston to run the shuttle hurdle at 8:15 a.m.
The BCLUW boys finished in 16th place out of the 16 teams in attendance with a time of 1:04.10, but Garber said just getting to share this experience with his teammates was worth the cold run.
“It means a lot to get them down here. They put in just as much work as I do, we are always at the track together and we always hold each other accountable,” Garber said. “They count on me and I count on them, it’s a team race, one person can’t win the race for you. It means a lot to get these guys down here with me to share the experience and get the experience to go into state, so hopefully we can be less nervous about that and get big things accomplished there.”
Willett, who runs the opening leg for the Comet shuttle hurdle that owns the top mark in 1A, said even though it wasn’t quite the same as running during the finals like Garber did on Friday it was still a fun race.
“It’s cold and rainy and there was no one in the stands, so it probably wasn’t the same atmosphere that Jack had yesterday but it was still pretty crazy getting here,” he said. “It was definitely an accomplishment.”
Kruse said not only was it great to get to run at Drake, he thinks this sets the team up well for its possible next race on the Blue Oval at the state meet.
“I think being here is really going to help boost us forward for conference and districts,” he said. “This will prepare us for state really well too, I think it gives us a feel for everything.”
Ralston, the lone newcomer to the shuttle hurdle team this year, said the biggest benefit he got from running on Saturday was to get a feel for such a big time race.
“This was my first year on the team so I was just getting my nerves out of the way and hopefully next time we will be better,” he said.