2011 Drake Relays: Mat Clark takes Dec & Whitney Carlson takes Hep, by James Dunaway

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James Dunaway, the distinguished editor of American Track & Field is track & field's version of Methuselah. I do believe that he has seen most of the Drake Relays, now in their 104th year. James drove up from Texas to see Drake in all of its glory. Here is how he saw the decathlon and heptathlon:

Drake deca and hept from James Dunaway

  Des Moines,  April 28 --  Northern Iowa graduate Mat Clark overcame a near-disaster in the hurdles to win the Drake Relays decathlon with a total of 7,500 points, while Whitney Carlson, a North Dakota State senior, won the heptathlon with 5,352.

Clark, who grew up in nearby Ames, has had a history of leg injuries and struggled to finish tenth in last June's U. S. national championships here with 7,370 points. He needed to score 7,500 today to qualify for this year's nationals in Eugene, Oregon. He nailed that number exactly, but getting there wasn't easy.

He finished Wednesday's first five events in second place with a good 3,848, but then in the first of today's five events he ran what he described as "the worst  hurdles race of my life."

He added, "I totally drilled the first hurdle. And so the next nine it wasn't so much me racing as just trying to finish." His time, 16.21, was perhaps more than a second and 100 points off his expectations, and suddenly his 7,500-point goal looked nearly impossible. A sub-par discus throw of 127-0 didn't help, but a good 14-11 pole vault and a personal-best 200-9 javelin throw left him needing a 4:25.63 to hit his 7,500 target.

His 4:25.58 made it by 11 inches or so. If he had waved to the crowd, he'd have missed it.

Clark, who won here in 2009 with 7,663 but no-heighted in the 2010 Drake decathlon pole vault, hadn't competed in any event since last summer. He exulted, "It doesn't better than this. I felt really rusty, but I got through it pretty well. There's nothing that beats the feeling of winning here. It feels like my hometown, 30 minutes away."

Heptathlon winner Whitney Carlson, who won three of the seven events - 100 hurdles, 13.87; 200 meters, 24.69; and long jump, 19-11 --  was competing in her fourth-ever heptathlon. Her score of 5,352 improved her PR by nine points.  She said, "I'm from North Dakota, so I'm used to the wind and the cold."  Speaking of her hometown of Windsor, N.D., she added, "It's a town of 11 people, including the cows. Ten, now that I'm in college."


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