ONLINE EXCLUSIVE STORY BY HUNTER PHILLIPS
Each year the nation’s top athletes gather at Drake Stadium to compete in America’s Athletic Classic. In that way, the Drake Relays presents a unique challenge to competing high school athletes in Iowa because of its close proximity with the state meet and its world-class atmosphere.
The 2016 Drake Relays will also introduce the Hy-Vee High School Cup, a competition between Iowa high school track teams.
“Four events will be contested by high school teams,” said Brian Brown, director of Drake Relays. “The 4×100 meter relay, 4×400 meter relay, 4×800 meter relay and sprint medley relay will determine the champion.”
The Hy-Vee High School Cup will only add to an already impressive field of prep athletes who will be competing at the Drake Relays. Here are just six of those athletes to keep an eye on this year.
Stephanie Jenks (Senior – Linn-Mar)
Possibly the top distance runner in state history, Jenks will compete in her final Drake Relays as a high school athlete. She owns a Relays-best 9:26.47 in the 3000-meter run. Last year, Jenks took home first in the 800, 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs on the Blue Oval. Jenks has collected eight Relays flags in her illustrious career and looks to add more.
To no surprise, Jenks has already rocketed towards the top times in the state this season. She leads all runners in the 800 (2:15.52) and 3,000 (10:28.55). Jenks will run track at the University of California at Berkeley next year.
Briyana Carter (Sr. – Theodore Roosevelt)
A lineage of tremendous track and field athletes at Roosevelt has continued with senior Briyana Carter. Carter tied the Relays record last year in the 100-meter dash with a time of 12.13. She also became the fifth consecutive Roughrider to take first in the 100 at the Relays. Weeks later, Carter improved her 100 time at the state meet, posting a blistering 11.95.
Former Roosevelt standout, Olympian and current Drake Track and Field head coach Natasha Kaiser-Brown owns the record in the 100 at 11.50, which was set in 1985.
Kiana Phelps (Sr. – Kingsley-Pierson)
One of the most dominant athletes at the Drake Relays will actually be competing off the track. Kingsley-Pierson’s Kiana Phelps is one of the top Iowan high schoolers in the shot put, along with being a three-time Relays champion in the discus. Phelps finished third last year in the shot put with a throw of 42 feet, six inches. This season she has wasted no time in surpassing that distance, throwing a 47 feet, 4 ¼ inches at a track meet in Vermillion, South Dakota.
Phelps owns the Relays record in the discus, with a throw of 159 feet, 4 inches in 2015-16. Phelps will be a member of the University of Oregon track and field team next year.
Ryan Schweizer (Senior – Dowling Catholic)
Ryan Schweizer is coming off a stellar junior campaign for the Maroons. He broke the Relays record in the 800-meter run with a time of 1:52.15. He also won the 1,600-meter run and finished second in the 3,200. Ryan Van Veen, the head coach at Dowling, praises Schweizer for his hard work on and off the track.
“Ryan has been great for us since day one,” Van Veen said. “He is obviously extremely talented and is as good as I’ve ever been around. But what people on the outside don’t see is his work ethic and his leadership. Ryan was born with lots of natural ability, but he works hard every day to get better.”
Schweizer is already off to a fast start this season. The senior currently holds the top times in the 800 (1:55.53) and 1,600 (4:22.83). The expectations will be big for Schwiezer when he takes his final laps in Drake Stadium as a high schooler.
“I’m not sure I have ever seen him totally satisfied with his performance,” Van Veen said. “He’ll never allow himself to be content. He’s always looking to get better.”
Schweizer will continue running track collegiately at the University of Notre Dame next year.
Isaiah Trousil (Junior – West Burlington)
The top finisher in the 100-meter dash from last year’s Drake Relays will be back to defend his title. West Burlington’s Isaiah Trousil crossed the line with a time of 10.95, after placing third in the preliminaries at 11.15. He was also a member of the 4×100-meter relay team that took first place with a time of 42.87.
Trousil has continued to put up impressive times this season. The junior currently has the top time in the 100 (10.91), 200 (22.12) and has helped pace the 4×100-meter relay team with another top time of 43.45. The 100-meter dash will have a loaded field this year. Trousil says that he is looking forward to rising to the challenge at this year’s Relays.
“Running at the Relays last year was an awesome experience that I’ll never forget,” Trousil said. “I’m looking forward to competing with the best sprinters in Iowa, hopefully defending my title and making more memories with my team.”
Trousil, who also plays running back for West Burlington, will look to stiff arm the competition once again.
Xavior Williams (Senior – West Burlington)
Another member of the West Burlington track and field team will be one to watch at this year’s Drake Relays. Williams finished runner-up in both the high jump (6-09) and long jump (22-02) last year. He was also on the same 4×100-meter relay team with Isaiah Trousil that claimed first.
This season, Williams has already posted the best high jump in the state with a distance of 6 feet, 10 inches, along with the third best long jump at 21 feet, 8 inches.
Williams plans to play football at the University of Northern Iowa this fall after garnering District MVP honors in 2015 with nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns.