BY Courier sports staff
---- — DES MOINES — If it’s all about making strides each time she steps on to a major stage, Davis County’s Kate Birchmier is soon going to be stepping past the rest of the competition in the state.
In her first year to throw either the discus or the shot put at either the Drake Relays or the state track and field meet, Birchmier did both. In her first year at the Drake Relays, Birchmier finished 16th in the discus with a throw of 119-5 and fourth in the shot put with a toss of 41-0.
On Thursday, back at Drake for the second-straight year, Birchmier improved on her discus toss by almost 10 feet and 10 places. Who knows what that means for this morning when she heads back to Drake Stadium to compete in the 104th Relays in the shot put competition.
The Mustang sophomore cracked the top 10 in the discus at the prestigous Drake Relays for the first time on Thursday, earning a 10th-place finish with a toss of 129-0. Birchmier was one of several young ladies to shine in the event as four underclassmen broke the top 10, highlighted by a Drake Relays-record toss from Kingsley Pearson/Woodbury Central freshman Kiana Phelps’ throw of 153-4, which topped her own state-best throw by 9-10.75 feet and broke the old Relays high school mark from of 151-1 thrown by Iowa City West’s Taylor Freeman in 2007.
Several area athletes stared in the field on Thursday at the Drake Relays. Fairfield senior Daniel Schwartz made the most of a last chance to win a prep title at the Drake Relays on Thursday, battling throughout the afternoon for the boys long jump crown.
Schwartz, the top high jumper in Class 3A and a state title hopeful this May, finished in a tie for fourth place with Burlington senior Justin Randall. Schwartz’s final cleared jump of 6-5 was not enough to top West Burlington Notre Dame sophomore Jeff Giannettino, who cleared the bar at 6-8 to beat out a pair of challengers by an inch to claim the Drake title.
Also in the field, Oskaloosa sophomore Taylor Richardson finished 18th in the girls long jump. Richardson finished the competition with a leap of 16-2.
Pekin’s lone Drake qualifier, Gwynne Wright, ran in the girls 3,000 meters in her first year to run at the relays. The Panther freshman finished the two-mile distance race in 20th place with a time of 11:12.07.
Birchmier headlines a busier day for local prep athletes and one former area star that will be running for the team that calls Relays track home. Mustang fans will see Andrew Cowles running in the boys 110 hurdle prelims along with Fairfield senior Jonny Swanson,at 8:16 a.m. today while Birchmier will be throwing the girls shot put final starting at 8:30 a.m.
Just about an hour later, former Cardinal state champion hurdler Sarah Yeager will take to the track in the prelims of the women’s university division 100 meter hurdles, representing Drake. Yeager, who is also scheduled to run later in the day for the Bulldogs in the 4x400 prelims and in Saturday’s 400 hurdle finals, has already won a pair of outdoor hurdle titles and the indoor Missouri Valley 60 hurdle conference championship this spring.