DRAKE RELAYS: Bobcat sprinters still have work to do

DES MOINES – The good news for the Marshalltown girls’ 4×100 meter relay team is that the foursome turned in their best performance on the biggest stage Friday at the 105th Drake Relays.

The bad news though is that the group still has a long ways to go to even think about qualifying for the state meet next month.

The Bobcats’ foursome of senior Chione Brooks, sophomore Tabby Steffensen and juniors Karli McClure and Cassidy Blackford finished sixth in their heat and 64th overall despite turning in a season-best time of 52.19 during a preliminary heat of the event at Drake Stadium.

That time though would only be good enough for seventh place in the Bobcats’ own district this season. The only team the Bobcats beat from that group was Mason City, which ran with Marshalltown in heat eight and stopped the clock at 52.83.

“That was the best time of the year and the best the hand offs have looked all season long,” said MHS coach Chad Pietig. “That was by far the best race of the year for that group, but we would be seventh in our district based on the times today. So we still have a lot of work to do still. We’ll have to drop down a full second at least to have a chance at a state berth.”

West Marshall also competed in the boys’ 4×100 relay and placed 71st overall with a time of 45.53.

The Bobcats have had quite a few hills to climb this season. Steffensen began the season on the injured list but is finally starting to catch up with her running mates.

The group also has worked on trying to perfect their hand offs for much of the early part of the year. That issue stems from Blackford still being fairly new to the sport and Steffensen being just a sophomore.

“The steps were off some and we had too many people panicking during exchanges,” said Pietig. “We had some missed opportunities earlier in the year because of missed hand offs. It usually comes down to repetition and trust.”

Blackford hopes running a race with near perfect execution with hand offs can only help the Bobcats moving forward.

“We have adjusted our hand offs all season and we are finally getting it to be consistent,” said Blackford. “I think that will help us the rest of the season.

Brooks ran in her fourth Drake Relays, while Steffensen, Blackford and McClure ran on the blue oval for the second time. Steffensen and Brooks were on the same 4×100 relay team at state last year, too.

“I think we ran well today,” said Steffensen, the second leg of the relay. “The hand offs were finally good, but we weren’t sure how it would go when we were practicing.”

Of the six schools ahead of the Bobcats in the district, two advanced to today’s Drake Relays 4×100 finals. Cedar Rapids Jefferson had the second-best qualifying time at 48.49, while Cedar Falls advanced with the eighth and final time of 49.86.

Waterloo East was 21st at 50.83, Linn-Mar finished 39th in 51.48 and Waterloo West was 44th with a time of 51.59. Newton also was in front of the Bobcats, but they were separated by just .02 seconds.

“We were happy as a coaching staff with the girls’ performance,” said Pietig. “The changes we made are showing up, but we are concerned about how we stack up in our district.”

The Trojans’ foursome included seniors Duncan Ferch and Elijah Streeter, who were on the Trojans’ third-place team at last year’s state meet. Also running for West Marshall were seniors Blake Young and junior Nick Juel.

West Marshall was slowed on the second exchange when Juel stumbled just before he received the baton from Streeter.

Notebook

Blackford said the Drake Relays seems like a bigger deal than the state meet. “It seems more like a big deal, because at state all the girls are warming up on the field. It is much more organized here and it feels like it’s more important.” Brooks is a four-time state qualifier and four-time Drake Relays qualifier. She will run for North Iowa Area Community College next year after signing her National Letter of Intent back in January. West Marshall entered the meet with a better time than fellow 2A representative Roland-Story but the Norseman beat the Trojans by .15 seconds on Friday. The Trojans currently have the 21st-best 4×100 time in Class 2A.