Abraham Lincoln's Darby Thomas shines on big stage once again at Drake Relays

Darby Thomas had a long jump of 19 feet to become the third Iowan to win three straight Drake Relays crowns in the event.

DES MOINES — Maybe that’s how you explain it.

Throughout Darby Thomas’ high school track career, she has displayed the rare ability to peak in the most pressure-filled moments.

It happened again Thursday, when the Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln senior produced five long jumps that were at least 6 inches farther than anyone else in Iowa.

The Nebraska recruit had a best jump of 19 feet to become the third Iowan to win three straight Drake Relays crowns in the event, joining Jalynn Roberts-Lewis of Des Moines Roosevelt (2012 to 2014) and Jennifer Jorgensen of Southeast Webster/Grand (2006 to 2008).

But beyond her natural athletic ability, perhaps Thomas has some assistance when she explodes off the board and floats into the air. She thinks about two loved ones during each competition: her father, Derrell, who died at 48 on October 6, 2015, of complications from ulcerative colitis, and her friend Merzedes Hart, who died at 19 on January 13, 2017, in an automobile-pedestrian accident.

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“I always say something for my dad and Merzedes and the Lord before I jump, when I get on the runway,’’ Thomas said. “It’s just always about them. ... I know that no matter what, they’re proud of me.’’

When asked which Drake Relays was her most memorable, Thomas said it was the only year she finished second in the long jump, her freshman season.

“That’s when Merzedes was here, and that was a big deal,’’ she said.

Thomas took the lead on her second attempt, going 18-7. No one came within 6 inches of that mark the rest of the day.

Thomas, who also has two titles and a runner-up finish at the state meet, tried to explain her knack for performing at big meets.

“Since I was a freshman, I’ve always been under that spotlight and had a lot of high expectations from people,’’ she said. “I think that the bigger crowd really pushes me to do my best. The pit’s amazing, obviously. The runway’s amazing. The atmosphere with the drums going for an hour — they’re the real athletes.’’

In the 3,000, Glenwood senior Janette Schraft ran a personal-best 10:09.49 to place fourth, three spots better than her finish last year in the event. Iowa City Liberty freshman Ashlyn Keeney won in 9:39.64.

“I’m not going to say I’m the happiest person on Earth,’’ Schraft said.

Schraft said her training was hampered by some tissue damage in her knee. She didn’t run for five or six days last week.

“I think mentally I was a little torn up about it, but I ran a PR by one second,’’ the Iowa State recruit said. “When I really think about that, that’s 13 seconds faster than what I ran last year at this time, so I can’t be too upset about it.’’

Bedford senior Emma Lucas, a Kansas State recruit, placed eighth in a season-best 10:16.19. She has battled a back issue for most of the spring and said she’ll get an MRI exam soon.

“Very frustrating,’’ she said. “Today, I was a little mentally worried about my back. I am proud of my performance, but I’m not as happy as I think I could be.’’

Schraft will run in the 800 on Friday and the 400 hurdles and 1,500 on Saturday. She said her brief physical setback shouldn’t affect her in those races.

“If anything, I’m just more driven,’’ she said. “I’ve always seen myself as someone who gets stronger as the distances get lower.’’

Lewis Central’s Jones second in shot

Personal bests in the shot put by several inches at a competition as prestigious as the Drake Relays are impressive.

Logan Jones on Thursday improved his personal best by nearly a couple of feet.

The Council Bluffs Lewis Central junior and Iowa football recruit fired the shot put 58 feet, 6½ inches to place second in the all-class event at Drake Stadium. His previous best had been 56-7, established last season.

Senior Noah Fenske of New Hampton, another Iowa football recruit, won the competition with a personal-best 60-11¼.

Jones had an inkling that Thursday could be something special.

“My coach told me in warmups I was hitting about 59, 58, so I was like, ‘OK, it’s going to be a good day. I can just feel it,’’’ Jones said. “It was.’’

After a first attempt of 54-6½, Jones hit his PR on his second try.

“In my head, I’m thinking about fast feet and a good release,’’ he said. “I feel like that will get you to 60, or at least 58.’’

Also on Thursday, Treynor had a pair of entries. Senior Jerry Jorgenson finished seventh in the 3,200 in 9:33.29, breaking his personal best by about eight seconds. He said he had a goal of running 9:25 in his first Drake appearance.

“Especially on lap 6, I noticed that it started to spread out a little bit, and it was my time to start moving forward,’’ he said. “I don’t know how much I moved forward, but I gave it my all and I knew that with 800 to go I just really had to put it into gear.’’

In the high jump, Treynor junior Jack Tiarks tied for ninth at 6-3.

GIRLS

Discus: 10, Lauren Payne, CB Lewis Central, 126-7; 13, Logan Hughes, Shenandoah, 120-8; 15, Ashley Onken, Carroll, 117-6; 17, Kelsey Fields, Creston, 115-9; 23, Elle Scarborough, Glenwood, 107-9; DNS—Nicole Jacobson, Sioux City Heelan.

Long jump: 1, Darby Thomas, CB Abraham Lincoln, 19-0.

3,000: 4, Janette Schraft, East Mills, 10:09.49; 8, Emma Lucas, Bedford, 10:16.19.

BOYS

High jump: t9, Jack Tiarks, Treynor, 6-3.

Shot put: 2, Logan Jones, CB Lewis Central, 58-6 ½; 14, Kobe Clayborne, Sioux City Heelan, 50-9¾; 24, Blake Wiederhold, Sioux City East, 47-7.

3,200: 7, Jerry Jorgenson, Treynor, 9:33.29.

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