DRAKE RELAYS: MHS girls’ relays run season-best times

DES MOINES – MHS veteran runners Eisha Oden and Chione Brooks have plenty of experience on the blue oval. They have run at the Drake Relays before.

The rest of the Bobcats got to experience what it was like to run at Drake Stadium this weekend and that experience will only help MHS moving forward as the team prepares for the stretch run of the season.

Oden and Brooks guided two Bobcat relay teams to strong finishes Friday, helping the sprint medley relay to a 16th place finish and pushing the Bobcats to a 38th place tally in the 4×100-meter relay at the 104th Drake Relays at Drake Stadium.

“Both relays were season best times,” MHS coach Chad Pietig said. “The biggest thing we wanted to accomplish down there this weekend was to get our young kids the experience of running in that atmosphere. Eisha and Chione were the only two that had ever been down there so gaining that experience was big for us as we prepare for regionals and hopefully state.”

The Bobcats began the day in the sprint medley relay, which is a timed final with three heats. Brooks, a junior, sophomore Karli McClure, sophomore Jasmine Scott and Oden ran a personal-best time in 1 minute, 52.51 seconds. Oden ran a lifetime best in the 400 leg of the race as she ran faster than 59 seconds for the first time in her career. The team’s overall time was two seconds faster than its previous best.

“That was a great run for Eisha, I was glad to see her hit that mark,” Pietig said. “Chione had two fantastic lead off times. I think we led at the first exchange in one relay and were pretty close to the lead in the other.”

The winning sprint medley time came from Des Moines Roosevelt and the Rough Riders crossed the line in 1:47.98.

Brooks and Oden started and finished the 4×100 as well. The middle two legs were sophomore Cassidy Blackford and freshman Tabby Steffensen. Blackford, Steffensen, Scott and McClure all were making their first-ever trips to the Drake Relays. That is why gaining experience for the state meet next month was so important.

“It was a pretty good day for our team,” Pietig said. “We have more to improve on for sure and hopefully we’ll be ready for regionals and the state meet.”

The 4×100 relay team of Brooks, Blackford, Steffensen and Oden crossed the line in 51.61. The winning time came from defending Relays champion Des Moines Roosevelt, who crossed in 48.01. The final qualifying time was 50.03.

“I think our handoffs went well. I think we ran well,” Blackford said. “It was nerve-wracking at first. It’s a good experience and I really enjoyed it.”

Oden and Brooks both knew what to expect this weekend. And they have high hopes for the rest of the season. They also took the time to teach the younger runners how to excel on the blue oval.

“It is a good experience. We did good. Our handoffs were good,” Oden said. “I need to keep pushing everyone else, especially the ones who haven’t been here. This is important and you have to be prepared for it. They will know what it feels like to run here and they can prepare for something they have seen before.”

Brooks thinks the Relays don’t give runners the proper warm-up time so she was a bit tight during her leg of the sprint medley. It is occurrences like that that the younger kids can learn from.

“I ran pretty good today, the hand offs were good and I thought we performed well,” said Brooks, who was running in the Drake Relays for a third time. “Hopefully the younger kids get the nerves out. Running here for the first time should help them with that.”

Oden ran in three relays at the Relays last year. But she said nothing has been as challenging as this season with all the postponements due to a cold and rainy spring.

“It’s been a lot different. We haven’t had a lot of meets to qualify and we couldn’t get a good seed,” said Oden.

That won’t stop the senior Bobcat from seeking to set records in both the 200 and 400.

“I am pretty close right now, and hopefully we can get some nicer weather to run in now,” said Oden.

Nicer weather will also help the Bobcat relays improve. And next time they hit the blue oval, it won’t be so new.

“We wanted them to use this meet to get over the nerves, go through the whole process of checking in and seeing that crowd,” Pietig said. “The process of staying loose and maintaining focus can be challenging, too. You experience so many things on this track that you don’t experience anywhere else. Hopefully they’ll be ready for it at state.”