CORONAVIRUS

His PA duties on hold, Mike Jay is spending his time introducing high-school athletes to prospective college coaches

Track & field: 'I wouldn't take a penny for it, not that I couldn't use another paycheck right now,' says the voice of Drake Relays

Drake Relays announcer Mike Jay is serving as a liaison between high-school track and field athletes and college coaches
Drake Relays announcer Mike Jay is serving as a liaison between high-school track and field athletes and college coaches, as spring sports are on hold due to coronavirus. Photographed at the Clear Creek Amana stadium in Tiffin on Tuesday. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Miss track and field? So does Mike Jay.

Yes, the public-address announcer stands to lose a substantial chunk of income — more than $23,000 — due to event postponements and cancellations from the Drake Relays to the state meet to the NCAAs to the Olympic Trials.

But that’s not why.

“My heart breaks for the kids,” said Jay, 60, who has served as lead PA announcer for the high school state meet since 2003, and for Drake since 2006.

“They’re out there, still training, still working ... still hoping and dreaming there is something at the end of the rainbow.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all high school sports are on hold in Iowa.

Because Gov. Kim Reynolds has closed schools through April 30, the Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union have suspended spring sports through that date.

The state track and field meet has been moved back two weeks, to June 4-6, and it’s possible that it will be delayed further, or canceled.

“I definitely feel we’re being robbed of a season,” said Lilly Geelan, a junior at Linn-Mar. “My motivation is to be prepared so if we’re back in school May 1, I’m ready to go.”

Geelan is among more than 160 juniors and seniors who have enlisted Jay as a liaison between athletes and college coaches.

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“We still have a few kids trickling in,” Jay said. “A lot of kids put a lot of faith into their junior year as far as getting noticed by the colleges.

“Plus, there are seniors that weren’t getting a lot of attention. They were left hoping for this season.

“There’s a kid from West Des Moines Valley that ran all relays last year, mid-21 200 (meters), mid-47 400. He was going to run all open events this year, really get a chance to be noticed. Now that might not happen.”

Jay said he has a list of 105 coaches, nationwide — “All divisions, NCAA, NAIA, junior college. It’s a broad spectrum.” — that subscribe to his portal.

“It’s a super resource, putting us in touch with college coaches, some that aren’t in Eastern Iowa,” said Geelan, a distance runner. “I’ve heard from some schools in Wisconsin, a couple in Illinois, some on the other side of Iowa.

“But I’m a homebody and will want to stay close.”

A junior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, Brody Lovell was on the Cougars’ shuttle hurdle relay that won a Drake Relays championship last year.

“I feel I’m in a better situation than most,” Lovell said. “A lot of people run JV as a freshman and sophomore. I’m fortunate I got to run varsity and get noticed.”

Still, Lovell was hoping to use this season as an opportunity to expand his resume.

“I want to be a decathlete in college, and my events were going to shift from hurdles and jumps more to main sprints,” he said. “If you can run an 11-second 100 (meters), that speaks for itself.

“Plus, as a team, we were going to be loaded this year.”

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This isn’t Jay’s first philanthropic venture within the track and field community. Thanks mostly to T-shirt sales, his “Track Guy” program has given away more than 200 pairs of shoes to underprivileged youths. The program awarded two $500 scholarships in 2019 and hopes to award six this year.

And if the state meet is canceled, Jay has discussed sponsorship of an all-comers meet for later in the summer if conditions allow.

“My sons and I, track and field has been so good to us,” said Jay, who hasn’t missed a Drake Relays since 1975. “This was something we could do and should do.”

More than one person has told Jay he could make good money for hooking athletes up with college coaches during these extraordinary times.

“I wouldn’t take a penny for it,” he said. “Not that I couldn’t use another paycheck right now.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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