CEDAR RAPIDS — Too early for title talk?
They don’t keep track of points at the Drake Relays. If they did, the boys from Cedar Rapids Washington would have brought more home than the three relay titles they captured.
“I’ve been to the Drake Relays the last 20 years. This is one I want to remember, from beginning to end,” said Washington Coach Bill Pinckney.
The Warriors won the 400- and 800-meter relays, along with the first shuttle hurdle relay contested at Drake. In mythical team scoring (10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1, like at state), Washington compiled 50 points. Indianola’s 32 was the next highest.
What does that mean, considering the state meet is still 3 1/2 weeks away?
“We’re going to score a lot of points (at state),” Pinckney said. “I still feel we need another relay that will have to perform like the others did at Drake to make a run in the team race.”
Pinckney retooled his coaching philosophy in 1997, after he attended a USA Track and Field seminar. He received Level 2 certification in sprints and hurdles.
“I felt like I learned about athletics all over again,” he said. It was so in-depth on the physiology aspect. It really changed how I train kids.”
The Warriors, obviously, are stacked in the sprints and the hurdles, and have a distance ace in Lewi Manirumva. The wild card could be sprinter Ronnie Henderson, who is trying to battle back from an ankle injury.
“It still gets really sore in the 100 because of the early burst you need. He can run a pretty good 200,” Pinckney said. “It’s a matter of time. The extra week (between Drake and state this year) will help.
“I think our fastest times are still in the future.”
Ups and downs for West girls
Iowa City West girls’ coach Mike Parker likened his team’s weekend to a roller coaster.
“We were prepared for that. You’re going to have your highs and lows in a 13-event (sequence),” Parker said. “Two areas that definitely came through were our distance and hurdle kids.”
With Drake in the rear-view mirror, the outlook changes. West is bidding to join Atlantic (1998-2001) and Tipton (2004-07) as the only girls’ teams to win four consecutive state titles.
“Drake is about winning flags. At state, second and third place has enormous value,” Parker said.
Sioux City East, which edged West in mythical Drake scoring, 61-60, has star power in Shelby Houlihan and Ellen Dougherty while Waukee has hammers in Colette Gnade and Whitney Westrum.
Parker is hopeful that his team’s balance and depth — along with the presence on Drake long jump champion Jessica Gehrke — will prevail when it returns to Drake Stadium May 21-23.
“We’ll be in contention,” he said. “East and Waukee will have to win things. We won’t.”
The area’s other girls’ title hopeful, Mount Vernon-Lisbon in Class 3A, placed in the top eight in five events.
“It puts in perspective where we stand,” said Karly Cochrane. “It’s a major confidence boost.”