Story by Taylor Soule
At last, the Bulldogs have a chance to compete at Drake Stadium. For the upperclassmen, the Jim Duncan Invitational on Friday and Saturday means momentum for Relays. For the freshmen, though, the inaugural meet at Drake Stadium means nerves.
Sophomore Melissa Parks remembers those nerves all too well. A year later, though, Parks looks to calm the nerves of her young teammates — 15 in all. The Drake newcomers won’t be the youngest on the track, though. Prep athletes from across the metro are slated to compete at Drake Stadium on Saturday.
A host of collegiate teams from across the Midwest are slated to compete on the blue oval this weekend.
The action starts at 3:30 p.m. on Friday in the NCAA men’s high jump. Iowa high school athletes take the field at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday in the prep boys’ long jump.
Though the meet brings many new faces, Parks’ focus remains on her Bulldog teammates. She said she advises the freshmen to remember that they run on the blue oval every day, and meet day is no different.
“Keep the nerves down, I guess, and just keep doing what they’ve been doing for the past races,” Parks said. “A lot of people get worked up over this one, but you know, we do workouts on this track every day, so we should be used to it by now, so just keep things the way they were, I guess, is the biggest thing. That’s my advice.”
Though she advises the freshmen to stay calm, Parks acknowledges that the Jim Duncan Invite has high stakes, thanks to the loyal home crowd.
“There’s a lot more people that we know there, so there is a little bit more pressure,” Parks said. “That just makes it much more enjoyable when you look back at it. So, it will be more pressure, but it will be worth it.”
The Drake women are ready to carry the momentum of last Saturday’s victory at the Ashford Spring Invitational in Clinton, Iowa, to a second straight victory. Drake totaled 180 points en route to the title.
Though the teams at the Ashford meet hardly threatened the Bulldogs, Parks expects tougher opponents on Friday and Saturday. She said the meet provides a glimpse of the Drake Relays’ high stakes and talented opponents.
“This weekend will be in between Ashford (Invite) and the Drake Relays,” Parks said. “It will be good competition for us, but obviously, it won’t be as easy as the Ashford meet. It will be right where we need it.”
While the Drake women have a set of goals for Friday and Saturday, they look forward to the weekends beyond the Jim Duncan Invite, too.
“We just want to have a good showing at home, produce some good times that can qualify us for some bigger meets in the coming weeks in the Relays,” Parks said. “It’s all about getting the good times to qualify for the next ones.”
Senior thrower Isaac Twombly echoed Parks’ advice for the Drake newcomers.
He advises the freshmen to stay calm and approach the meet as usual.
“I guess, tell them to treat it like any other meet,” Twombly said. “You can’t really hype up any one meet over the other. I guess, just to say, ‘Hey, you are in your own house now.’ Just to go in relaxed and focus on what they need to do.”
Twombly knows what he needs to do on Saturday. He said he wants to reach a new personal record and hopefully, earn a bid to the May 23-25 NCAA Regionals.
Beyond his personal goal for the weekend, Twombly said consistency is the goal for the Drake throwers, particularly as the April 25-27 Drake Relays near.
“The goal is just to try and stay consistent from the past couple weeks and going into this meet, especially with Relays just around the corner, trying to stay consistent, and if possible, make some progress,” Twombly said.
Like the Drake women, the Drake men are hopeful to build on a meet win at the Ashford Spring Invite this past weekend. The Bulldogs scored 165 points to take the title out of nine teams.
Though improvement, personal records and momentum for the Drake Relays are key on Friday and Saturday, Twombly said the Bulldogs want to wow the Des Moines crowd, too.
“It’s pretty important,” Twombly said. “It’s nice to impress the home crowd while we’re here.”
Collegiate events start at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at Drake Stadium.