Area athletes capture flags at Drake Relays

Apr. 29—OTTUMWA — Anthony Ward didn't really know how to react.

"Honestly, I didn't expect to win," Ward said.

The Indian Hills freshman would have been happy receiving a hug from his coach and some congratulations from his teammates on Friday afternoon after finishing first in the men's university/college triple jump, crossing 49 feet with his fifth attempt putting over a foot of distance between himself and regional rival Otenidi Omot of Iowa Western. There's a little bit more that comes with a winning effort at an event like the Drake Relays.

First, Ward was handed the champion's flag given out to every athlete that wins an event at the 114th annual 'American Athletic Classic.' Then, likely for one of the first times in his career, Ward was ushered to a press room to do interviews after becoming just the fifth IHCC track and field athlete to win a Drake Relays title.

Then, somewhat reluctantly, Ward took a victory lap around Drake Stadium. It was certainly a unique experience. Being at the Drake Relays in general was a new experience for the Madison, Wisconsin native.

"This is the first time I've been to the Drake Relays," Ward said. "It's nice to be able to call myself a champion."

Ward set the tone right away for his winning effort in the triple jump, reaching 48 feet and two inches on his first attempt giving the IHCC freshman a lead he would not relinquish. Ward led by less than a foot going into the championship round of jumps, hitting his leap of 49-1.5 on his second of three attempts in the finals.

"It did not look pretty, but it got the job done," Ward said. "My initial jump of 48-2 was a little more technically sound. That second jump in the final might not have been as technically sound, but it got me further down the pit."

While the trip to Drake was a new experience for Ward, Indian Hills teammates Tate Joens returned to the blue oval after several trips to watch the event over the years. The graduate of Cedar Rapids Prairie joined his father and older brother as an athlete to compete in the Drake Relays, finishing 26th for Indian Hills in the men's university/college shot put with a throw of 46 feet and 10.5 inches.

"It's kind of like a legacy thing getting the chance to compete with so many high-class athletes," Joens said. "It's a pretty neat thing to continue that legacy after a couple of generations."

Also back at the blue oval to compete in the Drake Relays was Triston Miller, who joined IHCC teammate Cyrus Ways in producing a top-10 run for the Warriors in the men's university/college 110-meter hurdles. Ways edged Miller, who finished as the high school boys runner-up at Drake last year running at Columbus Junction, for ninth place finishing in 14.33 seconds while Miller finished 10th in 14.37.

"It still feels the same way no matter what level you're competing at when you come here to compete at Drake," Miller said. "Competing at state is cool, but when you get the chance to compete here at Drake as a high school athlete, it means you're one of the best athletes in all of Iowa. Being able to make it back here as a college athlete is pretty cool. It shows the progress I've already made this year."

Miller and Joens were not the only former Iowa high school standouts to find success in the 114th Drake Relays. Former Van Buren County standout was part of a winning run for William Penn University in the men's distance medley relay to open action on Saturday, leading off the Statesmen's winning run of 10:12.53.

Former Ottumwa standout Mason Farrington also returned to the blue oval after competing in multiple relays for the Bulldogs at both the Drake Relays and the Class 4A portion of the Iowa High School State Track and Field meet. Farrington, running for Central College, helped the Dutch finish 12th on Friday night in the men's 4x200 relay in 1:42.31.

"Making it through high school, I think it makes that much more meaningful to make it back here to Drake in college," Farrington said. "It's a little bittersweet. I miss my old teams at Ottumwa and all the teams I come up here to compete with, but it's awesome to be back here.

"It's a different red uniform I'm running in these days. Other than that, it still feels the same coming out here to compete."

Lizzy Van Utrecht helped the Central women bring home a top-10 finish in the women's sprint medley relay on Friday night as the Dutch finished eighth overall in a time of 4:11.1. Van Utrecht was part of a state-championship win in the Class 2A girls 4x400 relay with Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont last May, an event in which the Rockets returned to compete on in on Saturday, finishing ninth in 3:58.39 with Caroline Van Utrecht competing in the spot once held by her older sister.

"Caroline deserved that spot. It's really exciting that we both get to compete here at Drake," Lizzy Van Utrecht said. "It's very special to see her run in the same race that I got to compete in. She's such a strong runner. She's been confident in her abilities and she's been perfect in her execution.

"I love competing with my team here at Central. We've been getting better and better. It's been exciting. I felt so confident coming in here. I've had so many amazing role models that I've worked with. I'm very proud of this team."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.