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Former Creston track standouts return to Iowa

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This past weekend was a busy weekend of track and field for me.

Not that I’m going to complain about that at all, since I love going to track meets. Especially when we have as beautiful of weather as we had this past weekend.

Friday, in particular, was a busy day for me, with five area high school athletes competing at the Drake Relays, all before 10 a.m.

The rest of my day was filled with familiar faces.

Kierra Smith, running for Augustana College (Ill.) ran the 400-meter leg in the College Division distance medley relay (1,200-400-800-1,600) at the Drake Relays Friday morning.

The opening leg for the Vikings ran much of the 1,200-meter leg in the lead, before falling back to second place and fading a bit on the final lap.

By the time Smith received the baton from her teammate, she had plenty of ground to make up to catch the leader from Wartburg.

And Smith did just that, chewing up ground on the leader along the backstretch, racing her way right to the Wartburg runner’s shoulder around the top of the curve, heading into the homestretch.

Smith, who has been specializing in the 400 meter hurdles this season for the Vikings, ran a 57.5 second 400-meter split for Augustana. The Vikings relay team ended up finishing ninth in the relay.

“The girl from Wartburg who was running right in front of me, I’ve run against her a lot in the 400 hurdles,” Smith said. “So it’s kind of like a nice little rivalry there.”

Smith said her team’s goal was to break the school record in the event they had set at the Drake Relays last year, but they came up just short.

But, she was still happy with her effort, especially with making up so much ground on the Wartburg runner down the backstretch.

“That’s hard to do in the 400, because usually there’s only a second difference between you and the other person,” she said. “I definitely like to chase. I thought I was going to get her, but that wind hit me on the homestretch, so it kind of pushed me back a little bit.”

Smith said the Drake Relays served as a great warmup meet for her conference meet this weekend, and for the upcoming national meet.

The junior from Creston entered the weekend ranked fifth in NCAA Division III for the 400 hurdles, with a time of 1:02.42.

After missing qualifying for nationals by just one spot last year, Smith said she’s been working hard to get there this year.

“Last year they took the top 22 and I was 23rd, so I just missed it,” Smith said. “I kind of have that extra drive to make it this year. Fortunately, I got in a pretty good time earlier in the season.”

After the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin meet in Decatur, Ill., this weekend, Smith and the Vikings will then compete in two qualifying meets to try to improve their times heading into the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in La Cross, Wis., on May 23-25.

After watching Smith run, I stuck around Drake Stadium to watch some of my collegiate teammates run in the University Division men’s distance medley relay.

And then it was off to Simpson College, to watch even more of my collegiate teammates, the Southwestern track and field team, and to watch former Creston 400 meter hurdles state champion Audrey Bolinger.

Bolinger, competing for Northwest Missouri State, said her team arrived at the track in Indianola around noon on Friday. She did not compete until the 400 meter hurdles at nearly 7:30 p.m.

It was a long wait on a warm, windy day that eventually turned into a cool, windy day for Bolinger.

Like Smith, Bolinger said it was nice to return to Iowa for a track meet where she could see some familiar faces, giving family and friends an opportunity to watch her run.

Bolinger, a freshman for the Bearcats, finished fourth overall in the 400 meter hurdles, running 1:05.92 in the strong winds.

The Bearcats compete at the Metro Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships in Hays, Kan., this weekend.

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