Photo: Eduardo Zamarripa
On June 8, Jon DeGrave became the first Drake track athlete to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships since 2000. DeGrave finished with a time of 51.54 seconds in the national semifinal round of the 400-meter hurdles at Drake Stadium, but it wasn’t enough to advance to the finals.
Still, the senior earned honorable mention All-American honors. DeGrave said he was proud to represent Drake on his home turf, but did not run to the best of his capabilities. That will serve as his greatest motivation as he aims to return to the outdoor championships next June, which Drake will host again.
“It was a lot of fun and it was unique because it was here at Drake,” DeGrave said. “It was a really awesome experience. My friends, family and people from around Des Moines that I know came to watch me. Not a lot of people can say that.”
DeGrave had a tremendous season in the 400 hurdles. At the NCAA West Regional in Eugene, Ore., he broke Dan Cleveland’s school-record which stood since 1983. His time of 50.59 seconds broke his own personal record of 50.92 seconds, which he clocked at the 2011 Drake Relays. DeGrave has won the Missouri Valley Conference championship in the event twice in his career.
There were 24 hurdlers in the semi-final round before the field was whittled down to eight for the finals. DeGrave said the number of outstanding runners surrounding him was a little overwhelming.
“A lot of success in track comes from confidence, knowing that you belong,” DeGrave said. “I think I was a little intimidated this year and beat myself before the race even started. But after a whole year of training, I’ll be ready to move forward.”
At the NCAA West Regional, DeGrave finished fourth in the second quarterfinal heat and had the 10th fastest time in the regional. There were 12 runners in the West regional who advanced to the national semifinals.
Now DeGrave turns his focus to training for next season. After a long spring, he said that he took it easy with workouts this past summer in order for his body to recover for the upcoming year.
“Right now we’re doing general conditioning, and then about a month into the school year we will start hurdling,” DeGrave said. “I also want to spend a lot of time in the weight room.”
DeGrave also said he won’t start racing again until early December, when the team’s indoor track season gets underway. After a year of experience at the outdoor championships under his belt, he can’t wait to get another shot next spring.
“I’m more excited this year because (the NCAA championships) are at Drake again,” DeGrave said.