DRAKE RELAYS: West Marshall’s Davis, STC’s Holtz finish side-by-side

DES MOINES – Both Jennifer Davis of West Marshall and Samantha Holtz of South Tama County felt good about their performances in the girls’ shot put Thursday at the 105th Drake Relays.

Davis improved her position from last year’s event by eight spots and Holtz moved up 11 slots from her 24th and final qualifying toss that got her into the field at Drake Stadium.

In the end, the North Iowa Cedar League rivals wound up finishing side-by-side and just 1 1/2 feet apart as Davis claimed 12th with a throw of 38-2 1/2, while Holtz came in 13th at 38-1.

“It was a lot better than last year, so that was good,” said Davis. “I do wish I could have thrown further. But I have never thrown my best here. I try to save it for state. I get better as the season goes so I will continue to work and get my technique down and be ready for state.”

Davis finished 20th at the Relays last year and followed that up with a fourth-place tally in the 2A shot put at the state meet. She qualified for the 2014 event with a toss of 40-7, but even though she wound up more than 2 feet behind her season best, the 12th place finish was the best result in her tries at the Drake Relays.

“She’s always amazing. What I love about her is that she always saves her best throws for last,” said West Marshall coach Brian Weig. “She has a lot of experience being down here. It was awesome to see her come down here and have her best throw and get her best finish at the Relays during her senior year.”

The same goes for Holtz, who competed in discus at last year’s Relays but had never thrown shot put in the event.

Holtz’s qualifying throw of 39-1 was the final mark taken to the Relays. She came up short of that mark Thursday, but still managed to surpass several throwers as none of the competitors in the field had their ‘A’ game. The cold, rainy weather may have played a factor in that.

“I was pretty excited,” said Holtz, who finished seventh at last year’s Class 3A state meet. “I was hoping to move up some but was unsure because there are so many good throwers here. I was pleased with my finish though.”

South Tama County coach George Corum said it can be a hit and miss game with the shot put, which is why some of the distances were down.

“It can really be a who’s hot and who’s not thing,” said Corum. “Sam felt good about her performance today though. There were some tough conditions to deal with.”

Defending Drake Relays champion and Class 2A state champion Dasiana Larson of Garner-Hayfield/Ventura was upset by Class 3A’s Shelby Gunnells of Solon. Larson had the lead after the first three throws with her 42-2 1/2, but Gunnells went ahead on her final attempt that reached 42-4 1/4.

Davis County’s Kate Birchmier was third with a toss of 42-2 1/4. Pocahontas Area’s Macey Bales (41-0) and Estherville-Lincoln Central’s Caitlyn Clayton (40-2 1/4) rounded out the top five. Four of the top five finishes will be in 2A when the district meets take place next month. That doesn’t make things easy for Davis, who hopes to improve her standing from last season.

“It will take a lot to move up. I will have to put in a lot more work,” said Davis. “It kind of stinks that the best throwers are in 2A. If I was in 1A, I would probably win state.”

Holtz was fifth among throwers in the 3A field Thursday, but the Trojan senior was encouraged by surpassing four other throwers who entered the weekend with better qualifying marks.

“I could be facing the winner of the Drake Relays at state so that will be tough, but I beat a couple of girls in my class, too,” said Holtz.

One change to the shot put this year was that the competition took place inside the blue oval instead of in the grassy fields north of Drake Stadium.

That definitely had an impact on the performances, according to Davis.

“It was different. You have a picture of what things are going to look like and then they change it right when you get here. But it was cool,” said Davis, who is ranked in the top five of 2A heading into the final stretch of the season. “It has been a really good experience for me.”

Holtz enjoyed throwing inside the stadium.

“Knowing the whole stadium is watching you is pretty cool,” said Holtz, who set a new school-record mark earlier this season with her 39-1. “The announcer was even calling out our names once in a while. That was pretty cool.”

Notebook

Corum said the school record Holtz beat earlier this season had been standing since 1965.