Photo by Jeff Yoder / Click here to view Drake Relays photo gallery
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Ashlyn Keeney picked a heck of a time to switch up her strategy.
A historically fast starter, Keeney elected to hang back toward the pack in the 3,000 meters at the Drake Relays on Thursday evening.
The change in plans paid off in the form of a historic win for the Liberty High freshman in her Drake Stadium debut.
Keeney sprinted away from the pack over the final 800 meters to win the 3,000 in a time of 9:39.64, the fastest time in state history for a freshman and eighth best mark in the country ever by a freshman.
“When I was younger I’d stay back a little but recently, especially during cross country, I just try to get out and I kind of run scared,” Keeney said. “My coaches told me they thought I should try not doing that and I’m glad they did because I liked running it that way.”
Keeney entered with the fastest time in the state this spring at 10:06.24.
She demolished that time on Thursday while posting the fourth fastest 3,000-meter performance in state history.
Keeney finished more than 15 seconds in front of runner-up Marie Hostetler of Mid-Prairie who was only other runner under 10 minutes at 9:55.26.
“My goal this year, I was really wanting to run under 9:45,” Keeney said. “I’m obviously really happy with how that went. I am a little shocked. I didn’t think it was going to be quite that fast.”
Keeney stayed with pack for the opening six laps content to run behind Hostetler and third-place finisher Claire Edmondson from Dubuque Senior for the better part of the opening 2,200 meters.
Then Keeney simply sped off.
Keeney distanced herself from the field by running her seventh lap in 1:13.16 then put the finishing touches on her impressive performance with a 1:09.24 final lap, her fastest of the race.
“The last 600 meters I knew I had it I just had to finish strong,” Keeney said. “I was just really trying to trust my legs that they would push me through the finish.”
The fastest three 400-meter splits of the race for Keeney were her final three as she took at least three seconds off her lap time on each of her final trips around the famed blue oval inside Drake Stadium.
“The atmosphere and the environment here it was really cool but I was really, really nervous,” Keeney said. “My coaches they know how nervous I get and they were really helping me through it.”
Keeney credits the change in strategy for helping calm her nerves in her first ever Drake Relays race.
The plan put together by the Liberty High staff was designed to allow Keeney to focus on the final half of the race by hanging with the pack for the start.
Keeney executed the strategy to near perfection.
“It kind of calmed me down,” Keeney said of the race strategy changeup. “I get really nervous so I think that change really helped me. I’m just so grateful for my coaches and my teammates. I’m just very thankful.”
The win in the 3,000 is the start of a busy week at the Drake relays for Keeney who also enters with the top time in the 800 and was a member of two Liberty High qualifying relays.
“I’d just like to win as many as I can,” Keeney said when asked how many Drake Relays flags she has her eye on in her career. “It’s a great feeling.”
Liberty High sophomore Cami Mac was 20th in 10:39.82.
3,000 – 1. Ashlyn Keeney (Liberty High) 9:39.64; 20. Cami Mac (Liberty High) 10:39.82
Long jump – 1. Darby Thomas (Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln) 19-0; 21. Makinley Levin (Solon) 15-3 ¼
Discus – 1. Jamie Kofron (Tipton) 147-8; 16. Alexie Little (West High) 116-2; 20. Ainsley Schrock (Clear Creek Amana) 112-8
Individual Boys Results (Event winners; Area placewinners)
3,200 – 1. Tim Sindt (Ankeny) 9:14.64; 15. Kolby Greiner (West High) 9:48.2
Shot put – 1. Noah Fenske (New Hampton) 60-11 ¼; 5. Landon Green (West High) 54-6 ¾; 11. Rocky Lensing (Solon) 51-3 ½; 16. Luke Stein (Regina) 49-9 ½
High jump – 1. Grant Brouwer (Sibley-Ocheyedan) 6-9; 21. Marcus Morgan (West High) 6-1
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