Storm Lake High boys track and field coach Jeff Brennan said this week's Drake Relays isn't the most important meet of the year for high school teams, but didn't downplay the event, either.
Besides being a world-famous meet that combines high school athletes, Division I, II and III college teams, and some of the top track and field performers in the world, Drake is a motivating factor for prep athletes who compete in it.
"It's the type of thing where one of our runners will be warming up right beside some of the best athletes in the world," Brennan said. "It's a huge motivator for kids who are lucky enough to qualify, and it gets them even more committed to track and field."
This season, the Storm Lake boys team leads the area in number of athletes competing, as five athletes will be competing in five events.
Senior Logan Masters, an all-state athlete in four sports (football, basketball, track and field and baseball), will be competing in the high jump, the 110 high hurdles, and 400 low hurdles.
Junior Alex Spielman will compete at Drake this week in the 110 high hurdles and the 4x100 relay. In that event, Lamthong Sounnarath runs the first leg, followed by, Spielman, senior Mark Brown and senior anchor Derrick Randall.
Unlike the state meet, there are no classes at Drake, so prep qualifiers will be running against the top athletes statewide.
"That's what makes it special," Brennan said. "It's just a fantastic atmosphere as well, and the stadium is packed every day of the event. It's a fantastic opportunity for kids that qualify."
This year the Drake Relays will be held this Thursday through Saturday.
Masters will lead off for the Tornado boys with the high jump finals, which starts at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"I was an alternate at Drake my sophomore and junior years, so this will be my first time competing there," Masters said. "It's a great chance to compete against the best in the state, but also a chance to watch some of the top athletes in the world."
Masters has a personal best in the high jump with a leap of 6-feet, 5.5 inches. He said his goal is to clear 6-foot-6, and maybe go even higher.
"At last Friday's meet, I had the bar cleared at 6-6, but my heel caught the bar on the way down," Masters said. "I know I can go higher than 6-5.5.
In the 110 high hurdles, Masters and Spielman are two of the top athletes in Class 3A.
Masters set a new personal and meet record last Friday at Pocahontas, finishing in 14.66 seconds. Spielman has beaten Masters once this season in the 110 highs, and has a PR time of 14.77 set in Orange City two weeks ago.
"I just have to get off to a fast start," Spielman said. "I know I have good leg speed between hurdles, so I'm hoping to run my best races of the season."
The 110 prep high school prelims will start at 8:35 a.m. Friday, with the finals being held about three hours later.
Favored to win the 110 high hurdles is Kingsley-Pierson senior Nick Kuchel, the Class 1A two-time defending champion in that event.
"Logan and Alex can run with Kuchel," Brennan said. "But it's key that both of them get off to strong starts."
Masters will also be competing in the 400 low hurdles Friday at 1:38 p.m.
He has a PR in the 400 hurdles of 54.9 seconds, but hopes to run in the mid-54-second range.
Spielman, meanwhile, has high hopes for the Tornadoes' 4x100 relay team, which has a PR time of 44.17 seconds. Brennan said the relay team's goal is to run under 44 seconds.
"We'll have to run that well to place high at state, and we might have to go that fast at districts just to qualify," Brennan said.
"In the 4x100, the big key are the handoffs. If that goes well, the team has a chance to reach its goal."
Coach Brennan, Masters and Spielman are also heading into the stretch run toward conference, district and state meets.
Brennan said if his team's individuals perform close to their best, the team has a chance to finish in the top three in the state meet team competition.
"We have a lot of depth on our team, with almost every event covered," he said. "We've got a lot of good sprinters, and a good 800 and 1600 runner in Kevin (Wulfekuhler).
"We're good in the 3200 with Freddy (Federico Mendoza) and in the field events, we have Logan in the high jump, Tony (Raveling) in the discus and shot and me in the long jump.
"I think as a team, we're all looking forward to our conference, district and state meets," he said.