The fields are loaded at today’s Forwald/Coleman Relays; it’s the last night to post a qualifying performance for the Drake Relays and as always the meet features the first head-to-head competition between the two Iowa City public high schools this spring. But it may all come down to Mother Nature.
Accuweather.com predicted storms in the early afternoon and again beginning at 6 p.m., and lasting a couple hours. But organizers were undaunted.
“I talked to Tom Carey, the boys coach, and we’re going to get it in unless we feel that it’s ridiculously dumb to continue for the safety of kids,” City High girls co-coach Joe Graf said, optimistically. “This is my first Forwald as a coach, and I don’t want to mess anything up.”
Drake Relays qualifying is really not a factor in this meet, coaches said. Rather, winning the prestigious meet is foremost while preparing for the conference and state-qualifying meets coming up.
“We want to do very well at this meet,” West girls coach Mike Parker said. “I love the Drake Relays, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t spend the first six, seven, eight meets focusing solely on getting people to Drake. We’ll go into this meet and be point productive.”
Thus, you might not see any single relay loaded for bear, but instead see talent spread in a way that coaches believe will produce the most points.
“We try to approach Forwald each year putting together our best overall lineup to win a track meet,” West boys coach Brian Martz said. “We’re not going to focus too much on any one particular event. We’re going to try to win the track meet with our best overall lineup.”
This is the 41st running of the tradition-rich Forwald Relays. There’s no mistaking what the Little Hawks want.
“If we can beat West, we can win,” Graf said. “We’re positioning girls to run in events they’re going to score in. Our field events have been going well. We just need to get it going (tonight).”
“This meet is always about putting your best foot forward,” Carey said. “It’s going to be elite competition, so it’s going to be a fun one to sample that in or see how our best foot looks. We’re fortunate; I think we’re healthy. We’re relatively rested.”
The West boys are already No. 1 in the Iowa Association of Track Coaches’ power rankings even with heavy graduation losses in the sprints. Given the crummy outdoor weather lately, the indoor season has helped more than usual in establishing a pecking order in certain events. West ranks second by .70 seconds to Waukee in the medley relay after a good time in the Iowa State indoor meet using top athletes together.
“We have a nice team,” Martz said. “We’ve been able to win meets and take care of the Drake qualifying at the same time, which isn’t always easy for us.”
Carey ticked off nearly every event when asked to identify the best boys races.
“It’s going to be fun to see where (coaches) put people,” he said. “Do they spread them out a little bit? Do they have to? Some teams don’t have to. It’s going to be very interesting and just a great meet to watch.”
“From an absolute, 19-event team championship, this is as close as a pre-state meet as you’re ever going to have,” Parker said. “Because of the weather, it’s not really a halfway point for us, but this is kind of like a halfway state championship for us.
“I’m so glad we have this kind of meet. That’s just Iowa City track and field. These other teams want to come to Iowa City. This is, I believe, the Mecca of track and field.”
* DRAKE RELAYS: The area will be well-represented at the Drake Relays. Today is the final day to post a qualifying time, and Drake will not release its high school qualifiers list until Saturday. But some performances already have clinched spots.
Among the top qualifiers for area girls is City’s Sarah Plock in the 400-meter hurdles. Plock’s 1:05.03 leads the state. Only eight hurdlers make the Drake field.
West’s McKennan Cronbaugh is second and City’s Kiera Washpun fourth in the long jump. Cronbaugh also is the third-ranked 100 runner. City’s sprint medley team is ranked third. West is fifth and City eighth in the 4×200 relay. City’s Aliyah Gustafson is third in the shot put, and Solon’s Kara Misel is seventh. Misel leads area discus hopefuls with the sixth-best throw in the state (129 feet, 11/2 inches).
West’s Ashlynn Yokom has the sixth-best time in the 3,000 and seventh-best in the 1,500.
The boys are led by City High’s 4×800 relay, which has posted the state’s best time of 7:56.64. Mohamed Traore, a member of that relay, has the fourth-best time in the open 800. West is ranked fourth in the 4×800.
West is second-ranked in the medley, just .7 seconds behind Waukee. West also has the second-ranked 4×200 team. West’s distance runners will be well represented. Bailey Wetherell is fourth, Daniel Gardarsson eighth and Isaac Jensen 13th in the 1,600, while Gardarsson is fourth and Jensen sixth in the 3,200. City’s Brook Price is 10th in the 1,600. West’s Tavian Smith has the sixth-best long jump.