Darby Thomas named winner of Gerry Cooley Award at Drake Relays

Darby Thomas was named the winner of the Gerry Cooley Award, which goes to the most outstanding performer in the high school girls division of the Drake Relays.

DES MOINES — Darby Thomas didn’t begin hurdling until last season.

She worked with former Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln teammate Haley Hartman, who was convinced of her potential.

“She was like, ‘Darby, you can do it,’ ’’ Thomas said.

Thomas finished the year tied for 27th in the 100 hurdles among all Iowa preps with a fastest time of 15.48. She qualified for the Drake Relays in the event but didn’t make the finals, placing 12th.

In this year’s A.L./T.J. Invitational on April 18, Thomas broke 15 seconds for the first time, clocking 14.71.

“That was when I realized, ‘Wow, maybe I really can be good and I can do it,’ ’’ she said.

Everything came together at 10:31 a.m. Friday. Despite posting the third-fastest preliminary time and trailing Iowa City West senior Peyton Steva decisively through the first half of the race, Thomas kept charging, pulling even with Steva at about the ninth hurdle. She powered through the 10th hurdle and leaned hard.

“I almost fell over. But it felt really good,’’ Thomas said.

She had a good feeling.

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“I just looked up at the board really fast and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Did that really happen?’ ’’ she said. “And the other girls were coming up and saying, ‘Good job.’ And I was like, ‘It’s real.’ ’’

Thomas earned her fourth Drake Relays flag, running a personal-best 14.30, just ahead of Steva’s 14.33. Although it came with a tailwind of 3.2 meters per second, above the allowable wind speed for a record, her time tied for the fastest in a Drake final since the hurdles were raised to 33 inches in 2009.

This is the 19th year the long jump and 100 hurdles have both been contested at Drake, and Thomas joins former Logan-Magnolia standout Alex Gochenour (2011) as the only Iowans to win both in the same weekend.

Thomas returned later in the day to place second in the 100 in 12.16. Purdue recruit Kerris Roberts of Waterloo East won comfortably in 11.82. Sioux City West freshman Holly Duax was third in 12.24.

“It was an awesome day,’’ Thomas said.

She said the rush of overtaking Steva in the 100 hurdles was overwhelming.

“It was insane,’’ said Thomas, who ran 14.57 in the preliminaries earlier Friday morning. “I didn’t think I would have won it. I knew I had to do better on getting over the hurdles, because toward the end of the prelims I felt really high. That was something I talked about with (the coaches), because I had the speed.’’

Thomas said her result serves as a lesson for all athletes who feel discouraged. The girl she was tied with in 27th on last year’s performance chart? Steva.

A year later, they were the best two in the state.

“There’s always room to grow, always ways to get better,’’ Thomas said. “Just keep pushing yourself.’’

Western Iowa picked up another gold medal in the boys 100 when Sioux City East senior Ardell Inlay outleaned Urbandale junior Harrison Waylee 10.878 to 10.880. Inlay, who was sixth at Drake last year, entered with the third-best preliminary time.

“I’ve been trying for four years to be the fastest kid in the state, and to say I’m the fastest kid in the state, it feels amazing,’’ he said. “It was just whoever got the lean. I knew it was super close. I knew it was me or Harrison. I saw my name on the board and it felt great.’’

At 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds, Inlay doesn’t look like he’d be the fastest sprinter in Iowa.

“Most people don’t think I’m a sprinter,’’ he said. “To me, size doesn’t matter.’’

Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln's Darby Thomas adds hurdles title to her Drake Relays haul (insert)

“It was an awesome day,’’ Darby Thomas said.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Jorma Schwedler was fifth in the boys 100 (11.13).

In the boys 800, Atlantic senior Chase Mullenix placed third in a season-best 1:56.89. The Iowa State recruit was at the lead with 400 meters remaining.

“I was looking to come in and win instead of PR, but I still ran a good race,’’ he said.

Mullenix said he hit a lull after running a 1:58 in an early indoor meet, as he dealt with a hamstring injury.

“These last couple weeks I’m starting to hit the times I like, so hopefully we can keep it going heading into these last couple weeks here,’’ he said. “This was a big step forward.’’Dylan Blake of MVAOCOU was seventh (1:58.30) and Craig Alan Becker of Atlantic was ninth (1:58.97).

In the boys discus, Council Bluffs Lewis Central’s Logan Jones placed fourth at 170 feet, 7 inches. That was short of his season best of 176-7.

“I was just trying to work on little things, and that threw something else off,” he said. “Hopefully I can come back to state and win that.”

In the girls 800, Glenwood senior Janette Schraft made a push for the title, charging to the lead with 400 meters to go in 65 seconds.

The Iowa State recruit held off Ashlyn Keeney’s attempt to pass down the final backstretch and still led with 200 meters remaining. Cedar Falls’ Mackenzie Michael passed her with about 130 meters left and won in 2:09.88. Schraft ended fifth in 2:11.55, and her time was the 25th-fastest in Iowa history.

Schraft said she typically starts to drop off between 500 and 400 meters remaining, so she made a concerted effort to push at that point.

“I probably started kicking just a little too soon for comfort,’’ she said. “I think I gave myself too much of a boost too early. I think if I would have drafted off Keeney a little longer, then I would have had more at the end. I definitely learned a lot from that race.’’

Schraft said there was a reason she didn’t allow Keeney to pass her on the final backstretch.

“I felt so great,’’ she said. “I was like, ‘I think I could hold this pace all the way through.’ Mentally, once you get passed up in a race, you let one droplet through and then a flood comes.’’

Sioux City Heelan’s Amber Aesoph placed seventh in the event in a school-record 2:12.41.In the boys 400, Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Schwedler placed second in 48.39, and Atlantic’s Zade Niklasen was sixth in 50.26. Sioux City Heelan’s Madison Jochum ended fourth in the girls 400 in 57.28.

Three western Iowa girls earned top-eight finishes in the shot put: Lewis Central’s Lauren Payne (sixth at 39-1), Sioux City West’s Hope Wagner (seventh at 38-9½) and Shenandoah’s Logan Hughes (eighth at 38-9).

Friday’s Western Iowa Results

GIRLS

Prelims

100 hurdles: 3, Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln, 14.57; 14, Laken Gardner, Sioux City East, 15.40; 24, Elle Scarborough, Glenwood, 16.02. 100: 3, Holly Duax, Sioux City West, 12.16; 4, Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln, 12.23; 18, Anna Winterrowd, OABCIG, 12.85. 1,600 relay: 5, Sioux City Heelan (Hannah Hutchinson, Amber Aesoph, Mia Conley, Madison Jochum) 4:01.39; 15, Treynor (Rachel Kinsella, Noel James, Maddie Shipley, Megan Carley) 4:05.41; 17, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (Emma Salker, Chloe Black, Maddie Hinkel, Brooklyn Huberty) 4:06.08; 21, Atlantic (Alyssa Derby, Pluma Pross, Taylor McCreedy, Haley Rasmussen) 4:08.46.

Finals

Shot put: 6, Lauren Payne, CB Lewis Central, 39-1; 7, Hope Wagner, Sioux City West, 38-9½; 8, Logan Hughes, Shenandoah, 38-9; 11, Sydney Biermann, Glenwood, 37-2; 14, Kelsey Fields, Creston, 36-9. High jump: 9, Sydney Durbin, OABCIG, 5-2; 10, Coryl Matheny, Glenwood, 5-2. Sprint medley relay: 14, Sioux City East (Myerra Parker, Allyson Smith, Laken Gardner, Lineya Wells) 1:51.74; 21, Glenwood (Coryl Matheny, Bailey Ostrander, Jaeda Wilson, Abby Hughes) 1:55.86. 100 hurdles: 1, Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln, 14.30. 800 relay: 18, CB Abraham Lincoln (Brooke Wohlers, Hanna Schimmer, Jillian Shanks, Darby Thomas) 1:47.23; 21, Sioux City East (Myerra Parker, Lineya Wells, Allyson Smith, Laken Gardner) 1:48.04; 22, Glenwood (Audrey Arnold, Bailey Ostrander, Jaeda Wilson, Coryl Matheny) 1:48.18. 800: 5, Janette Schraft, Glenwood, 2:11.55; 7, Amber Aesoph, Sioux City Heelan, 2:12.41; 13, Kaia Downs, Sioux City East, 2:18.79. 100: 2, Darby Thomas CB Abraham Lincoln, 12.16; 3, Holly Duax, Sioux City West, 12.24. 400: 4, Madison Jochum, Sioux City Heelan, 57.28.

BOYS

Prelims

110 high hurdles: 11, Max Murphy, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 14.93; 22, Ethan Bernard, CB St. Albert, 15.34. 100: 3, Ardell Inlay, Sioux City East, 10.79; 8, Jorma Schwedler, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 11.04; 28, Josh Heather, West Monona, 11.43; 31, Amos Rasmussen, IKM-Manning, 12.16. 1,600 relay: 5, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (Zach Shultz, Easton Ritz, Britton Delperdang, Jorma Schwedler) 3:21.47; 10, Atlantic (Zade Niklasen, Craig Alan Becker, Tyler Moen, Chase Mullenix) 3:23.45; 17, Harlan (Eli Boldan, Jonathan Owens, Johnathan Monson, Michael Erlmeier) 3:25.65; 23, CB St. Albert (Ethan Bernard, Luke Blaha, Ryan Hughes, Sam Rallis) 3:31.21.

Finals

Discus: 4, Logan Jones, CB Lewis Central, 170-7; 14, Derec Weyer, Harlan, 150-7. Long jump: 13, Michael Erlmeier, Harlan, 20-6; 14, Ardell Inlay, Sioux City East, 20-4½; 16, Kyle Berg, Carroll Kuemper, 20-2¼. Distance medley relay: 9, Atlantic (Zade Niklasen, Colin Mullenix, Tyler Moen, Craig Alan Becker) 3:35.15; 19, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (Sam DeMoss, Josh Stangel, Easton Ritz, Gabe Hannemann) 3:41.48. 800 relay: 7, Sioux City East (Kayden Jones, Ardell Inlay, Ray Ray Douglas, Gabe Wagner) 1:29.79; 18, Sergeant Bluff-Luton (Zach Shultz, Sam DeMoss, Josh Stangel, Britton Delperdang) 1:31.54. 800: 3, Chase Mullenix, Atlantic, 1:56.89; 7, Dylan Blake, MVAOCOU, 1:58.30; 9, Craig Alan Becker, Atlantic, 1:58.97. 100: 1, Ardell Inlay, Sioux City East, 10.88; 5, Jorma Schwedler, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 11.13. 400: 2, Jorma Schwedler, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, 48.39; 6, Zade Niklasen, Atlantic, 50.26; 9, Chase Mullenix, Atlantic, 50.44; 15, Sam Rallis, CB St Albert, 51.24; 16, Brayden Wollan, Underwood, 51.60.

Topham wins 1,500

DES MOINES — Former Griswold standout Rebekah Topham, a junior at Wichita State, won the women’s university 1,500 meters on Friday in 4:24.76.

It’s her fourth Drake Relays title. She won two as a high school athlete and added a third as a freshman at Wichita State, also in the 1,500.

Topham was sixth with 800 meters remaining and second with 400 to go. She found another gear in the homestretch and held off Rachel King of South Dakota State, who finished second in 4:25.12.

“I think coming back here and it being my home state and everything, it gave me all the more adrenaline and got me more pumped,’’ she said. “This is my favorite meet and I look forward to it so much every year."

Kevin is The World-Herald's lead western Iowa sportswriter, covering about 60 high schools. He's also in charge of the sports department at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs.

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