Story by Evelyn Lashley
For many high school athletes, qualifying for the Drake Relays is an exciting step toward a successful collegiate track career. Various members of the Drake track and field team have had the chance to face the Relays from both a high school and collegiate perspective.
Assistant cross country coach Casey McDermott has attended the Relays every year for over a decade.
As a high school competitor, she enjoyed being able to race and watch the other collegiate and elite races, too. Her nerves were high due to the hype and energy of the meet.
Last year, McDermott was coaching at Troy University in Alabama and missed her first Relays in 10 years.
“It will be nice to be back helping coach Drake athletes for this Relays,” McDermott said. “I’m eager to help prepare and watch our athletes have great performances.”
Junior Brogan Austin, of Boone, Iowa, ran the mile and two-mile races as a high school athlete.
“The crowd was cheering at full capacity for the mile, and I have never had so much adrenaline for a race before,” Austin said of the 2010 Relays. “I always loved running through campus after my races because everything was pristine. I also liked running past the street paintings. The campus always got me excited for running.”
Austin will run the 5k this year for Drake. At the 2012 Relays, Austin placed ninth in the 10,000 meters. The year before, Austin took second in the 10,000 to qualify for the NCAA West Regional meet.
“Relays is now a home-field advantage where I have familiar friends to cheer me along my races to help me run personal records,” Austin said.
Senior Whitney Westrum of Waukee, Iowa, also remembers the memorable Drake Stadium atmosphere from her high
“There is nothing like a packed stadium. Our track is amazing, and we are all so blessed to be able to run on it every day,” Westrum said. “The community environment evident on Drake’s campus is mirrored as fans cheer for athletes on the blue oval.”
Dedicated, energetic fans give high school athletes the confidence they need to race on the famous track.
“It was an honor then and still is,” Westrum said. “Not everyone has the opportunity to feel the emotions the crowd brings.”
All athletes are looking forward to another packed stadium for their collegiate races at the 2013 Drake Relays.
“It doesn’t matter when I run on Drake’s track, it is something about the track that helps me (get a personal record),” Austin said. “I always look forward to running here since (it) is such a rare and special treat.”