DES MOINES — The nerves hit Creston senior Luke Neitzel hard Friday morning as he stood alone on the Drake Stadium long jump runway, about to take the first jump of the 2013 Drake Relays high school boys long jump competition.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking, especially at the beginning since I was the first jumper,” Neitzel said. “I kind of got into the stadium a little late, but coach (Mark) Evans and coach (Pat) Schlapia got me prepared for the most part, so it was a good experience.”
Neitzel took off down the runway on that first attempt, hit the board perfectly and sailed through the air putting down a mark of 21 feet, 1 inch on the opening jump of the competition.
Getting a mark, especially a respectable mark, on the first jump allowed Neitzel to get a little more aggressive in his next two attempts.
And it nearly qualified him for the finals, as Neitzel finished 11th overall in the competition, just two spots and 4.75 inches out of the ninth and final qualifying spot, held by Glenwood’s Grant May at 21-5.75.
“I wasn’t really feeling much of anything,” Neitzel said about his first jump. “I was really numb. I was so nervous, I really didn’t know what I was doing. But after I got my first one in, not scratching on the first jump really helped a lot. I thought that helped me a lot with my confidence, because I at least had a jump in, something to fall back on.”
Neitzel’s second jump looked good, but he just barely scratched. Officials measured the jump anyway and told him it was a jump of 21-10.
Neitzel said he scratched by about half an inch.
That left Neitzel with one final jump, which went 20-4.50.
After finishing fourth in flight one, Neitzel played the waiting game throughout flight two to see if he would make finals.
Even though he didn’t make finals, it was still a respectable showing for Neitzel, who is in his first season of long jumping.
Neitzel, who said he thinks he could get a jump of 22 feet by the end of the year, said following his performance at the Drake Relays, he feels confident heading into the final weeks of the season.
“With Mark (Evans) teaching me things, I’ve got a lot to learn, but I think I can get that done by the time state comes around,” he said. “But it was good to go up against kids I hadn’t gotten to jump against.”
Neitzel became the third Creston long jumper to compete at the Drake Relays since 1998, following in the footsteps of 1998 Drake Relays champion Mike Mansour and 2003 qualifier Michael Buck.
According to Creston head coach Pat Schlapia, Neitzel is jumping similar distances as Buck did. Mansour won the 1998 Drake Relays with a jump of 22-2.75.
“I’m very proud of how Luke competed up there,” Schlapia said. “Looking at it, he qualified tied for 19th in the state out of all four classes combined. Finishing 11th, he moved up eight spots from 19th. In Class 3A, there were eight jumpers up there, and he finished fourth out of that. That’s nice to see him with that, because we plan to be back up there in three to four weeks for state.”
Murray junior Kate Patton finished 20th in the girls 100 meter dash, running a time of 13.24.
The time was off of Patton’s best time of the season —12.55 — which qualified her with the sixth-best time in the state going into the Drake Relays.
But Murray girls head coach Kyle Eckermann said Patton did not get a very good start out of the blocks, which is unusual for her.
“She was a little slow out of the blocks and that cost her. In a short race like that, it’s hard to catch up with people,” he said. “The night before we were up at Van Meter and she got disqualified for a false start, so I think that was in her head that this is her one chance and she didn’t want to get disqualified.”
Even though Patton may not have met her own expectations for the race, Eckermann said it was still a good experience for her.
“I know she was happy to be up there,” he said. “A little disappointed in how she ran, but still glad she made it. It was a good experience. A lot better competition than some of the meets we go to sometimes. Now she has something to look forward to with state coming up in the next couple of weeks.”
The Mount Ayr boys 4x100 relay team of juniors Erik Freed, Jacob Sobotka, Cody Stackhouse and sophomore Grant Staats had an impressive showing in their preliminary heat.
Heat seven of the boys 4x100 relay team consisted of three teams from the May 10 State Qualifying Meet being held at Nodaway Valley High School — Mount Ayr, Tri-Center Neola and Council Bluffs St. Albert.
The Raiders came in just behind both teams in qualifying, but finished ahead of St. Albert on Friday evening, finishing 52nd overall out of 80 teams with a time of 44.93.
That time was a season’s best for the Raiders and marked the fastest FAT time in school history. After being converted to hand time, it ties the school record of 44.7, which was set in 2000.
“We were matched up with district competitors Tri-Center Neola and Council Bluffs St. Albert, which gave us a great look at how our district matchup is building,” head coach Brad Elliott said. “It was an extremely fast race as the Raiders ran all alone in lane seven.
“As the stagger evened out by leg three, Tri-Center had a slight advantage and St. Albert had a step on us. Cody Stackhouse ran a great anchor leg to close the gap on Tri-Center and also pass St. Albert at the tape. I was very pleased with the way the boys ran. It seems like it’s been awhile since we have competed due to weather, so it was nice to see the boys do well under the pressure of a big meet.”