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UNI's Darius King learns among the elite in Drake Relays special shot put event
Iowa wins Drake Relays Cup
DES MOINES — Northern Iowa shot putter Darius King didn’t hesitate to answer the question.
Would the 2021 outdoor first-team All-American forgo competing in the college and university division at the Drake Relays if he could join Saturday’s elite field instead?
“I was like, ‘Let’s have fun with the elites,’” King said. “It would have been cool to win a Drake flag, or compete to win a Drake flag, but competing against Ryan Crouser is a once-in-a-lifetime (opportunity), so I decided to do that instead.”
A wise choice.
King finished 12th in the shot put at the 2020 Olympic Trials and is intrigued by potential post-collegiate opportunities that could beckon as he continues to hone his craft.
“They do it for fun,” said King, who finished fifth Saturday with a top throw of 62 feet, 11 1/2 inches. “I’m doing it for fun, too, so really just seeing how much they love it is showing me how much I really do love it.”
Crouser — who won the event at Drake for the sixth straight time — shared some advice for King as he weighs whether he wants to continue throwing after he’s done at UNI.
“There’s two things you have to do when you get into your first big meet,” said Crouser, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist. “Learn from the other guys, but also focus on you.”
King’s adopted that balanced, yet gritty approach as he aims to ascend to new heights.
“My coaches, my teammates always say, ‘Respect the grind,’” said King, who is in graduate school. “So that’s part of the process and I live by that, just keep grinding every day. I just want to eventually get to the top — and to elite level this time, not just collegiate.”
Iowa’s James Carter rose to the top for the second time in two days, soaring to the win in the triple jump with a best effort of 51 feet, 9 3/4 inches. Carter — who triumphed in the long jump Friday — beat Purdue’s Safin Wills by half an inch. And Wills’ final jump came last.
“I was a little nervous,” Carter said. “Because to say he would have beat me, I know in my heart I could have beat that, whatever that was. … I knew this was my flag today.”
It was a big day for the Hawkeye men, who won the Drake Relays Cup for the first time since attaining it back-to-back in 2017 and 2018. Iowa State had claimed the last two, but Iowa notched victories in Saturday’s shuttle hurdle and sprint medley relays to wrest control of the cup back.
Alec Still anchored Iowa’s winning sprint medley relay, which finished in 3:10.06 — about two seconds ahead of the second-place Cyclones.
“Growing up, this is the meet you dream of running at, especially for the Hawkeyes,” said Still, a graduate of Woodbury Central High School. “I dreamed of running for the Hawks since I was in fifth grade and to cross that finish line my last race at Drake is a great feeling.”
His teammates Gratt Reed, Khullen Jefferson and Jenoah McKiver — all underclassmen — ensured that would happen.
“The only thing I wanted, not the flag, I wanted him to get a win,” Jefferson said.