Courier sports staff
---- — DES MOINES — If she couldn't bring home a title this year at the Drake Relays, the next best thing for Kate Birchmier was to get a little bit closer to that dream.
In that regard, this was a successful second-straight trip to the historic track and field meet for the Davis County sophomore.
One day after cracking the top 10 in the discus for the first time in ever at the Relays, Birchmier inched a little closer in her best event toward claiming a championship against the best prep competition in the entire state. Birchmier improved on her Drake toss last year by a quarter of an inch, but moved into the top three with her toss of 41-0.25 as the the Mustangs top discus and shot putter finished just 10 inches out of second behind last year's Drake champ Alexa Hunt of Des Moines Roosevelt. The Roughrider senior was unseated by Garner-Hayfield junior Desiana Larson's winning throw of 42-0.5.
Birchmier was one of several local athletes from the South Central Conference performing on Friday in the 104th Drake Relays. Joining Birchmier as the only other area prep athlete to place in the top three at the Drake Relays in 2013 was Centerville senior Payton Busch, who came home in third place in a record-setting boys 800-meter run Friday afternoon.
Busch, a 3A state champ last year as part of Centerville's winning medley relays team, came home in a very quality time of 1:57.42. The race featured a Drake Relays-tying run by Dowling Catholic's Jason Thomas, who matched Fort Dodge St. Edmond's Neil Flattery's time of 1:55.18 in the same race last year on Friday to beat out Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior Timuantay Jones by less than a second.
The Davis County boys track team had their own representative out on the track in Andrew Cowles, who along with Fairfield senior Jonny Swanson ran in the prelims of the boys 110 hurdles. Neither area athlete made it to the final race. Swanson came closest, finishing with the 20th best qualifying time in 15.81 seconds, while Cowles was 27th in prelims with a time of 16.3.
The Albia boys had a pair of relay teams race under the lights at Drake on Friday night looking for spots in Saturday finals. Alex Schultz, Brett Leshen, Luke and Ryan Sarver finished 44th in the 4x100 prelims in a time 44.71 seconds while the Blue Demon 4x400 also failed to qualify for the finals on Saturday, finishing in the final race late Friday night.
Oskaloosa's 4x100 team of Jared Pace, KiJana DeJong, Tyce Sarver and Drew Richmond finished 35th in the prelims in a time of 44.41, failing to qualify for the finals. The Fairfield girls 4x100 of McKenzie McClure, Cierra Bielinski, Alexis Ring and Sydney Howard also failed to advance to Saturday's final after finishing 39th in the prelims in a time of 51.62.
The only area runner of any kind scheduled to run on Saturday is a former local state champ. Sarah Yeager, who won the 100 hurdles for Cardinal in 2009, will run in the 400 hurdles for Drake this morning at 9:32 a.m. after just missing out on the 100-hurdle finals following an 11th-place run in the prelims Friday morning in a time of 14.44 seconds.