Tigers shine at Drake

Records are routinely broken on the legendary blue oval at the annual Drake Relays in Des Moines. From the fastest runners in the entire world to CFHS’s very own student athletes, track stars gather in Iowa’s capital to prove themselves in front of 40,000 spectators in a meet that bonds hundreds of athletes together through one legendary track.

For a high schooler, hearing your name echoed throughout the stadium and being able to watch yourself running live on the Jumbotron is a memorable one. “It’s pretty awe-inspiring because you think of so many great things that have happened there.

“It’s an honor to run on that track,” junior hurdler Ben Louviere said. “It’s not so much a meet as it is a total experience for a track runner. It just sort of exemplifies the greatness of track.”

This greatness was exemplified for Cedar Falls during the 4×200, a relay that the Tigers came in happily as the No. 3 seed, meaning they would get the third lane and be able to see their fastest competition in lanes four and five.

The lone senior, Matt Turcotte, experienced a slow start to his high school track career as he didn’t go out for the sport until his junior year. His start in the leadoff leg of the 4×200, however, was anything but slow. Head coach Dirk Homewood tweaked the lineup a bit, putting Turcotte first in order for him to immediately chase those in front of him that started farther up the track but also farther from the middle.

The team of Turcotte, junior Denison Harrington, junior Hunter Lavalle and freshman anchor TreyShawn LaBeaux finished the last of three final heats comfortably in first place, but the team to beat was Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Jefferson ran in the first heat and finished with a time of 1:29.79, which led the field before the third and final heat that included the Tigers began. The champion was immediately unknown before the PA announcer came on saying, “The Cedar Falls Tigers are your new 4×200 Drake Relays champions with a time of 1:29.74.”

Champions by five one hundredths of a second.

“At first it didn’t really hit me,” Turcotte said. “Then me and Hunter were like, ‘We’re Drake champions’ and started freaking out.”

Turcotte played in the USSSA World Series, was a starting cornerback for the varsity football team, is a track captain and is committed to play baseball at Century Community College next year, but he said nothing compares to the feeling of being a Drake Relays champion.  “So far,” Turcotte said. “It’s at the top.”

Each runner played a key role in bringing home the victory, but none were more mesmerizing than the 6’4” freshman anchor LaBeaux who also played an essential role in bringing the 4×400 team a second place finish and just .12 seconds from being champions.

After leading off, senior Josh Jamison looked up and saw the Tigers trailing rival Waukee by 10-15 meters after a lap and a half had been completed. The next time Jamison looked up, LaBeaux had caught up to the lead, but in the end they fell just inches shy of the right to be called Drake champions. “Getting second, it sucks, but going forward, we have a team to beat now,” Jamison said.

LaBeaux will challenge for the open 200 title at the state meet in late May and has achieved success that many runners never approach in their entire high school career let alone in the ninth grade, but he is eager to continue to improve, “You can tell the kid really cares because every day he’s asking me questions. The kid’s very devoted, and we are very proud of him,” Turcotte said.

The early success has led to some high praise at a very young age. “He could be one of the best track athletes in the school’s history,” said Jamison, LaBeaux’s 4×4 teammate.

Other Tigers also performed very well on the blue track in Des Moines: the 4×100 team collected a fourth place finish, and sophomore long distance runner Sam Schillinger set a personal best by 12 seconds in the 3200, finishing sixth.

Drake is not only one of the biggest meets in the state, but also in the entire country, but all of the hard work remains aimed at the state meet in just three weeks. “We know that come State, that’s when it really matters to us,” Jamison said. “It’s the last meet of the year. How could you not give it all?”

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