Iowa State started strong, finished strong at Friday’s Drake Relays

Iowa State senior Jhoanmy Luque competes in the long jump at the Drake Relays. Luque won the event with a jump of 20-feet-11 1/4, which was a personal record.

Brian Mozey

Jaymes Dennison turned the final corner in the 4×800-meter relay straightaway. He had only 100 meters left of his 800-meter race.

At that moment, he remembered all. It all came back to him.

It was a year ago and Dennison was in the same position at the Drake Relays. He was the anchor for the Iowa State 4×800-meter relay team and was running alongside Iowa for the title. It was a neck-and-neck race as Iowa pulled out to grab the title.

Dennison wasn’t going to let that happen this season.

He waited for his opportunity to kick it into the final gear and Iowa’s Carter Lilly couldn’t handle Dennison. With only a couple more steps to the finish line, Dennison stuck his body out and finished the race on top.

As he was slowing down, he stuck his hands out and gave out a huge smile to the Iowa State fans in the stands. His teammates weren’t too far behind him giving Dennison a hug and running over to the Cyclone fans to celebrate the win.

“Last year I was in that same position and I lost,” Dennison said. “I just focused on the finish line.”

It might’ve been close for the 4×800-meter relay for the men’s run, but Iowa State took home two titles in a more of a blown out fashion with the women’s 4×800-meter relay and the women’s long jump.

The Iowa State women’s 4×800-meter relay team stuck to the strategy for the first three runners, but then decided to take a chance and push.

“We were originally going to go for the record,” said senior Evelyne Guay. “But once we found out how windy it was today, we were just deciding to go for the win because our coach has never gotten a flag before.”

Sophomore Larkin Chapman was the third runner and stayed behind Ohio State and Utah for the majority of her run until she reached the final 200 meters. Then, she took the lead and passed off the baton to junior Jasmine Staebler.

Iowa State didn’t have to worry because after the first step Staebler took in her 800 meters, it was a done deal. She started off closer to Ohio State at the beginning, but after the first 200 meters she had distance and eventually the win.

“I knew I had to bridge that gap [and lead],” Staebler said. “I kept looking up at the video board to see how close she was, but I’m not always good at pacing myself, so I was really happy to have enough to hold them off at the end.”

She definitely held them off with an almost five-second win over Ohio State and an eight-second lead over Utah. The 4×800-meter relay teams ended the night on a high note for Iowa State, but senior long jumper Jhoanmy Luque started off the day for Iowa State.

Before the long jump portion started, Luque had the mindset of jumping three jumps and being done, so her focus could shift to the triple jump on Saturday. That mindset had to change quite a bit after she faulted on the first two jumps and only had one jump left to make it into the finals.

Luque had a conservative jump to land her in the finals and took off from there. Her confidence rose with each jump she took in the final three jumps.

She started the finals with a 19-foot-11 jump. Then, she stuck a 20-foot-5 ¼ jump. Finally, she finished off Ohio State’s Taylor DeLoach with a 20-foot-11 ¼ jump, a personal record for Luque.

“Last year I got two flags, so this year I had to get two more flags,” Luque said. “I didn’t try to get nervous at all [about the first two faults] because I knew I just had to stick to my mentality.”

Luque said this personal record is definitely a confidence boost for her heading into the Big 12 Championship and then the NCAA Regionals. Her goal is to get back to the NCAA National Championships while defending her title at the Big 12 Championships.

Iowa State didn’t have many athletes competing in many events, but the events the Cyclones did participate in were finished strong and built confidence heading into the end of the season stretch. Both track and field teams said they built a strong start to the Drake Relays weekend, so they’re hoping to finish the weekend strong tomorrow.

The Cyclones broke history tonight with the two 4×800-meter relay teams. It’s the third time in Drake Relays history and the first time since 2000 when Missouri accomplished that task. Iowa State was the first school to do it back in 1979.

“We found out it’s been 30-plus years since this happened,” said sophomore Frank Hayes. “We’re just happy for it to happen again and to be apart of history.

“Hopefully, next year, we can repeat it.”