DES MOINES - Even though South Tama County junior Samantha Holtz did not perform as well as she would have liked, no one will be able to take away the experience the Trojan gained at this year's 104th Drake Relays outside Drake Stadium.
Holtz failed to advance to the 10-person discus finals Thursday and walked away with a 21st place finish, but the experience she gained will help her for a possible state meet next month and a stronger performance at the Relays next season.
"It was all right. I know I could have done better. At least I got here," said Holtz. "It's a good start. Hopefully, I can learn from this year and get back next year."
Holtz qualified for this year's Drake Relays with a throw of 122 feet. Her best throw Thursday was 112 feet, 2 inches. She started the competition with a throw of 107-11 and then was marked at 105-2 on her second toss.
"She had a little phobia I think," South Tama County coach George Corum said. "This is big-time. I think her being here has helped settle her down a little bit. It's quite an honor to be here, but she was disappointed that she didn't throw what she would have liked."
Kingsley-Pierson freshman Kiana Phelps set a new Drake Relays record with her winning throw of 153-4. She entered the competition with the top throw in the state.
Finishing second was Waukee's Erin Bramble at 139-6 and MOC-Floyd Valley's Brook Jacobsma was an inch behind in third with a mark of 139-5.
Holtz and Corum said the uniqueness of the throwing circle at Drake and the poor weather this spring factored into not being able to be at your complete best at this point in the season. Many of the high school competitors have had just four or five meets to qualify for a spot in this weekend's festivities.
"It is an ominous place to throw because you don't find this kind of cage anywhere else in the state," Corum said. "It is intimidating. There are a lot of girls who threw personal bests today, but there are also plenty of girls who threw about 15-20 feet under their best mark.
"The weather has definitely thrown a curve into things this spring. We haven't gotten to throw as much as we would have liked. We can't get outside to practice and when we have thrown this year it has been in some big time duress."
Holtz placed third in the team's most recent competition before the Relays and that was mainly due to having to throw in a heavy rain.
"I have been around track and field for 36 years, and I have never seen anything like this weather-wise," Corum said. "I guess there is a first time for everything."
Holtz threw at the state meet last year and was less nervous Thursday. But the throwing ring still sits a few feet back from a large net that forces the throwers to have a straight toss to the field. It can be intimidating.
"It's a lot different," said Holtz, who set the South Tama County school record of 126 feet at last year's regional meet. "It is so much bigger. I feel so much smaller in that net. It intimidated me a lot."
Holtz pointed out that it was a few little things that prevented her from launching a personal-best throw Thursday. She said she needed to get her weight back more and wasn't low enough during her throws.
The good news is that those are both fixable things. And an improvement will help her get back to the state meet and help her earn a medal for the first time in her career.
"I want to keep improving, keep building and hopefully hit my highest point at districts and state," Holtz said. "I hope to place at state."
Corum will help Holtz use the Drake Relays as an experience she can learn from. And use it to add fuel to Holtz's desire to meet her goals next month.
"It's a learning experience," Holtz said. "It's your own personal videotape. Sometimes you aren't your best here but you get to see the best, which is valuable too."