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Great Drake Relays for girls

Conference, state lie ahead for Lady Spartans
Gabbi Bullard leans over the third hurdle on the backstretch at the Drake Relays Saturday. Bullard was one of only four sophomores in the event. (photo by Joe Wilkinson)

DES MOINES– It’s a time-worn axiom; Time keeps slipping away. Good news, if you are the Solon girls track team, looking for ways to chip away at their times, just ahead of conference, district and the state coed track meets later this month.
With nine events qualifying for the century-plus old Drake Relays, it was hard to pick your favorite. But it was a great way to see how the team stacks up against not only Class 3A competition they’ll see at state but the best across the board, in the one-class Relays. A total attendance of 40,000 was announced.
The Lady Spartans’ weekend was capped by a fifth-place finish in the 4x400 relay. Taylor Ryan, Caylee Annis, Abby Smith and Erin Kerkhoff dropped their 4:01.58 preliminary round finish on Friday to 3:59.63 late Saturday. “When I got the baton, I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get out hard.’ I had run against them before. These anchors are fast,” reviewed Kerkhoff. “I stayed consistent on the back stretch and then gave it everything I had left (coming down to the finish line).”
“The 4x4 came through twice,” said Coach Brent Sands. “All four legs have not been at 100 percent so I was not sure what we were going to get. Clearly they came to perform. They made great drops in their time in both the prelims and the finals.”
In Saturday’s first high school event, Molly Duckett, Peyton Sands, Rachael Nelson and Gabbi Bullard just missed the shuttle hurdle finals, but saw their already fast time slipping down a little more. “We had a half-second drop there. The girls are three-10ths of a second from the school record,” noted Sands. “We had stalled in the mid 1:08 range, so it was great to see a drop in time (1:07.79), when it really counted. With a few exchange things to clear up, I think we can get under the record.”
Gabbi Bullard continued pushing herself in the 400 hurdles, running a 1:07.18 on Saturday. “Gabbi ran well; almost a half-second lower. She got out extremely well; cut down her steps through the first three hurdles. I like where she is. She still has some great runs ahead of her,” assessed Sands.
Other highlights: shot putter Emily Troyer’s 37-7 3/4 toss was 13th in the 24-thrower field, but ahead of two other 3A qualifiers, as they eye postseason competition. The 4x200 quartet of Ryan, Annis, Kerkhoff and Smith was eighth in the one-class high school competition… one of four 3A schools in the finals; indicating some fireworks in the state meet a couple weeks down the road.
Though back in the Drake pack, Sands is encouraged by the sprint medley. Sophie Nicol, Ducket, Ryan and Annis turned in a 1:54.21. “The sprint med was by far our best time,” said Sands. “We had to pull Erin (Kerkhoff) as she was in the 100, so Khaylor (Fleck) ran the anchor. She ran a solid quarter.” Fleck also competed in the long jump earlier in the weekend.
Ryan, Nicol, Fleck and Kerkhoff turned in a 51.70 4x100 turn on the track. Wind and handoff exchanges were problems to work out in the lead up to potential state meet presence.
From competing among the best high school, college, Olympians and other track elite at Drake, it’s back to the real world this week. Solon lines up against WaMaC Super Conference foes Thursday, on their home oval. Earlier this week, they were in Monticello’s Invitational.
Next week’s state qualifier, will tell them who returns to Drake, this time to go up against the best in Iowa high school’s Class 3A at state. With time slipping away.