The four members of the Ankeny boys’ 4×400 relay team weren’t even alive the last time that the Hawks won a relay crown at the Drake Relays.
The school’s 19-year drought ended on Saturday as Bram van de Mortel, Tyson Miller, Jack Belding and Jake Bosch teamed up to win the final event of America’s Athletic Classic in a time of 3:19.19. Ankeny had not won a relay title at the Drake Relays since 2004, when future Iowa football player Andy Brodell anchored the winning 4×400.
“It feels great. I don’t even know what to say,” said Belding, who ran the third leg in 48.52 seconds. “I’m just so happy with what all of us were able to do. We work together really well and we all did our part, and now we’re here. That’s pretty great.”
The race unfolded much like Friday’s preliminaries, when Bosch held off Mount Vernon standout Jensen Meeker by a margin of .05 seconds. On Saturday, Meeker ran the final leg in 48.61 to close the gap, but the Mustangs finished second in 3:19.48.
“The prelims were much closer,” Bosch said. “I held him off, but it was tight.”
Bosch was handed a lead of 1.34 seconds on Saturday thanks to the effort of Belding, who rallied his team from third place. Bosch then ran the final leg in 49.65.
“It feels good. That was a lot of fun. That boy right there,” Bosch said, nodding at Belding, “he’s crazy. Once he got the baton, I knew he’d do it. And once he gave it to me, I knew there was no way I could give this up now. I just went out there and ran. I had no idea where (the other runners) were. It was so much fun.”
Belding, a junior, said he enjoys coming from behind.
“I think that’s what makes me run even better, knowing I have a goal in mind,” he said. “Typically, I just like to hunt people down that are in front of me–so that was hard in the open 400 (on Friday), when I was in Lane 8. But today, we were set up in a good position where I wasn’t that far behind at all so I was able to just pass and get us where we needed to be, and Jake was able to finish it off. Bram got us off to a great start, and Tyson was able to carry that momentum.”
Bosch earlier helped Ankeny to a third-place finish in the 4×800 relay. He teamed up with Ethan Zuber, Levi Hill and Abel Squires to post a time of 8:00.53.
Iowa City High won the race in 7:48.83. Johnston was second in 7:52.46.
Bosch ran the anchor leg in 1:58.16 to hold off a charge from Dowling Catholic’s Owen Wolfe.
“I felt him come up there, and I just tried to hold him off,” Bosch said. “I felt like I had a little more left. That last 200, it’s just about who wants the pain. So I tried to take most of the pain there.”
Bosch, a junior, was also slated to run in the distance medley relay on Friday. But that team, which also included van de Mortel, never finished the race after a dropped baton on the first exchange.
“It was obviously sad not running it, but everyone on the team had more races,” Bosch said. “So we had more shots. We just looked at it like we were glad that it happened here and not at state. We tried to view it as a positive.”
Zuber, a sophomore, recorded Ankeny’s fastest split in the 4×800 relay. He ran the opening leg in 1:56.20 to put his team in front.
“I was just trying to get out strong,” Zuber said. “I feel like sometimes I get caught in a group, and that messes up your stride and your rhythm.”
As Zuber was being interviewed, Squires tried to interrupt him, calling him “The Goat” (the greatest of all time). But Zuber insisted that it was a team effort.
“We’ve got four guys on the relay, and it’s a credit to all four of us,” he said. “Great teammates, great coaching, and that’s what it leads to…placing well.”
The race got off to a bizarre start when a recall occurred after two of the runners went down shortly after the gun went off. Then, the restart was delayed when Pleasant Valley was disqualified for a false start.
None of the distractions fazed Zuber.
“People make mistakes, and it is what it is,” he said. “You’ve just got to stay focused on what you can control and go out and do what you know you can do.”
Zuber later placed third in the 1,600 with a time of 4:16.81. He moved from 12th place to fifth after running the second lap in 1:05.02.
“It was a very fast race–there were a lot of good competitors out there,” Zuber said. “I didn’t really worry about my time. I just saw some guys I wanted to compete with, and that’s what I went for.”
Gabe Nash of Sioux City North and Chase Lauman of Pella pulled away from the field on the final lap. Nash won the race in 4:12.30 to edge Lauman by .34 seconds.
Lauman and Nash had finished 1-2 in the boys’ 3,200 on Thursday. Zuber placed fourth in that race.
“They’re really fast,” Zuber said of the duo. “They’re super, veteran distance runners, and they definitely took control of today’s race.”
Hill also competed in the 1,600. In his final Drake Relays race, he moved into eighth place at the halfway point before finishing 20th in a time of 4:28.69.
“Overall, it was a great job by the 4×800 team today,” said Hill. “It’s been a great time competing here. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a little sad to see it come to an end, but I’m definitely ready for the next chapter.”
Hill, who will compete for Northern Iowa next year, is excited about Zuber’s future.
“To see those times out of a sophomore is crazy to say the least,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what he’s able to do over the next couple of years. There’s going to be a lot of records broken by that boy, so watch out for him!”
Ankeny also competed in the 4×100 relay along with crosstown rival Ankeny Centennial. The two teams were separated by just .05 seconds in the preliminaries, but only the Hawks advanced to the final.
Ankeny won its preliminary heat in 43.20. The Hawks were seeded seventh going into the final.
“We’re not happy with the time, but we’re just happy that we made it in,” said anchor runner Tyler Sickerson. “We definitely think we can execute better in the final. We were just practicing our handoffs today.”
Sickerson later teamed up with Aidan Adamson, Jazan Williams and Devon Akers to place fourth in the final. The Hawks were clocked in 42.55.
“We were very thrilled with (the race),” said Akers. “We were hoping to get top three, but with that time, whatever happens happens.”
Akers said he thinks the 4×100 unit could be even faster at next month’s state meet.
“We had a couple guys out–one with an illness and (Jamison Patton) with a knee,” he said. “We had some guys step up, and we’re very happy with the result.”
Cedar Rapids Washington won the race in 41.71, setting a Relays record. It was the third-fastest time ever in Iowa track and field history.
Miles Thompson and Michael Blank, the top two finishers in the boys’ 100 on Friday, both ran on Washington’s relay. The Warriors posted a time of 41.88 in the preliminaries, when they ran against Centennial.
The Jaguars’ foursome of Elijah Porter, Caleb Reed, Lawson Langford and Max Snyder placed fourth in that heat and finished 10th overall in 43.25. They missed qualifying for the final by .01 seconds.
“It is disappointing,” said Porter. “Our second runner (Connor Welsch) was injured, so we had to put a sophomore in today. But he did his job. He ran well.”
Welsch tweaked his hamstring at the Fred Smith Hawk Relays on April 18. He was replaced in the lineup by Reed.
“We know we can do better, but there’s always state,” Porter said. “We know there’s more of the season ahead. We didn’t plan on peaking here at Drake, we plan on peaking at state. Fix up our handoffs, and just practice, practice, practice.”
After running the opening leg of the race, Porter had a good view of the backstretch as Washington’s Thompson swallowed up the runners in front of him on the second leg, drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
“He is amazing,” Porter said of Thompson, who will play football at Texas Tech. “I’ve played 7 on 7 with him, so I’ve seen the speed first hand and raced against him in 40 yard dashes and stuff. He’s just amazing. He’s going to be great at the next level.”