DRAKE RELAYS: Newcomb’s new record

DES MOINES – It’s hard to explain an improvement of more than a full foot when it comes to the long jump.

GMG junior Bryce Newcomb was certainly at a loss for words. And the only explanation Wolverine coach Mike Pierson had was that his high-flyer rises to the occasion when the competition is at its greatest.

It doesn’t really matter how or why it happened, but raising his level at the 105th Drake Relays is exactly what Newcomb did.

Newcomb came into the meet with a personal-best jump of 21 feet, 9 inches, but eclipsed that mark by 14 inches Thursday evening, and the 22-11 mark awarded the GMG junior with a runner-up finish inside the blue oval.

“I thought if I jumped my best I could move up to maybe eighth or ninth to be honest,” said Newcomb. “I thought there would be a little bit more juice today because it was the Drake Relays. I just jumped my hardest and ended up with a 22-11.”

Newcomb entered the meet with the 10th-best mark amongst the 24-person field. He set a new school record with a leap of 21-9 1/2 on his very first attempt and then blew that mark away with the 22-11 on his next try.

His third attempt was 20-11 1/4 and none of his final three jumps were better than 21-3, but it didn’t matter. The only jumper in the field that beat Newcomb was Clear Lake’s Chandler Diercks.

Diercks, who entered with the top qualifying mark and was second at the Relays last year, ended up winning with a leap of 23-10.

“It’s an honor to be second, that’s for sure,” said Newcomb. “There is a lot of history here. I was glad to be here before I got second. This was fun.

“I just did it. I just worked hard and can’t explain how I improved that much.”

Pierson wasn’t sure what would transpire for Newcomb, who was making his first-ever visit to Drake Stadium. But he knew his competitive fire could propel him into the finals.

“It’s just pretty incredible,” said Pierson. “He’s a competitor and has some great jumping ability. We had been waiting for this to happen again. We jumped that 21-9 really early in the year and haven’t really gotten past 20-5 in the outdoor season.

“He just rises to the top when the competition is there.”

Newcomb came into the meet with the second-best qualifying mark in Class 1A. His best competition at the state meet could be Audubon’s Colby Rattenberg, who ended up sixth Friday with a leap of 21-4 1/2. Rattenberg qualified for the Drake Relays with a jump of 22-1.

“Anything can happen, but I hope to beat him again,” said Newcomb of Rattenberg. “I got the nerves out of the way today. I think this was tougher than state will be competition-wise. So I don’t think it will be as bad the next time around.”

Pierson has been the head coach at GMG for 25 years and Newcomb is the first Wolverine to take part in the long jump at the Drake Relays under his direction.

“I think this bodes well for him for the state meet,” said Pierson. “If he jumps like that, he should do very well.”

Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s Famiek Cook ended up third with a 22-4 1/4, while Linn-Mar’s Curtis McCrary was fourth at 22-1/2. Sioux City Bishop Heelan’s Tyler Cropley rounded out the top five with a jump of 21-7 1/2.

The Wolverines will have another chance at a Drake Relays medal today when senior Brock Fisher takes part in the high jump at 9:45 a.m.