BY NOAH MANDERFIELD
Mary Young has a good idea of what the Drake Relays are. After competing in three relays in high school, she is getting ready for her fourth and final collegiate attempt – her seventh time overall at the annual event.
Young grew up in Urbandale, Iowa and began to flourish at the high school level. A specialist in the 100-meter hurdles, she took home two consecutive victories in that event her junior and senior years of high school, breaking a record in the latter year at state.
“That was crazy. I really wanted to finish strong,” Young said.
She finished with a mark of 14.62 seconds, second best in Urbandale girls track and field history.
Although these two victories were some of her more impressive highlights, she always thought most highly of the Relays.
“(In high school), Relays was more important than state honestly, cause that was when everyone could compete against each other, no matter if it was 4A or 3A,” Young said. “Everyone was there and the crowd was always just amazing.”
During her senior year, she committed to Drake. Then she showed her talent on the Blue Oval, where she would compete for the next four years. In the third and final Relays of her high school career, she showed off her true talent to the state. She not only won her best event, the 100m hurdles, she broke a Relays high school record with a time of 14.30 seconds.
Now having been with Drake for four years, Young has a lot of experience under her belt. In her Drake career, she’s been All-Conference in the Missouri Valley Conference, had a trip to the NCAA Regionals in the 100-meter hurdles and a first-place finish in the Georgia Relays. While she has a lot of first place finishes, she is still most proud of her third place finish in the 100-meter hurdles at the Drake Relays, her best Relays finish in her collegiate career.
“(The third-place finish) is crazy for me because I am competing against girls that are Olympic trial qualifiers and SEC champions,” Young said.
She isn’t wrong about the increased competition. Last year, she ran against—and defeated— Valerie Thames, a Missouri University record holder in the event and competed against Chantel Ray, who placed fourth in the Big Ten Championships, as well as Jayla Stewart, who qualified for the NCAA Preliminary Round.
“(Placing) third was just way past what I thought I could do,” Young said.
Sophomore Malik Metiver, a hurdler as well, says that Young is able to do this because of her work ethic.
“She just works hard, and she always keeps a good attitude about her, so whenever things aren’t going well you can kind of level with her,” Metiver said.
Heading into these Relays, getting third again will not be an easy task. Having just begun the outdoor season after moving from the indoors, Relays will only be the Drake team’s fourth time competing outdoors this season. Ngonidzasbe Makushba, an assistant coach for Drake, said the move to outdoors from indoors will take a bit of adjustment before Young is ready.
“She is a seasoned athlete,” Makushba said. “She knows what works for her, when to perform, so we just have to give her time to get her strides together.”
Some of the difficulties in moving outdoors is the addition of wind, which can make times more of a variable, and the addition of four more hurdles for a total of ten.
While the Relays may not be the end, the event may be the beginning of the end, something Young is beginning to realize.
“I have had a lot of good success at the Drake Relays. It is always been very near and dear to my heart,” Young said.
Her final goal? To continue to improve.
“Hopefully I can get down to 13 (seconds) flat,” Young said. “That has been my goal since freshman year.”