Reigning World champions Kori Carter, Sam Kendricks, Brittney Reese, Katerina Stefanidi and Christian Taylor headline a list of 61 Drake Relays alumni who will compete in the 17th IAAF World Championships that start this Friday, running through Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar.
By Mike Mahon. Feature photo: Karissa Schweizer-Dowling-Bowerman and Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Bowerman©Jim Kirby 2019
One can only look back at the athletes who competed at the 2019 Drake Relays as further evidence that director Blake Boldon has built America’s Athletic Classic into allowing loyal fans to see the world’s greatest track and field athletes.
Thirty-three of athletes who performed in the 110th running of the Drake Relays this past April 24-27 will be at the World Championships. Kendricks, Jenn Suhr, and Ryan Crouser, who are current 2019 world leaders in their specialties, have competed at each of the past two Drake Relays.
Kendricks is bidding to become just the second athlete ever to win a second men’s pole vault title in the World Championships, joining Sergey Bubka, who won six titles between 1983 and 1997. Kendricks set an American record of 19 feet 10 ½ inches at Drake Stadium during the USA Championships July 28 – the second highest mark ever achieved outdoors in world history.
Carter, who won the women’s invitational 400 hurdles at the 2019 Drake Relays, is back to defend her World Championships title in the women’s 400 hurdles.
Reese, who won a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics and captured Drake Relays titles in 2007 and 2013, will seek an unprecedented fifth career world title in the women’s long jump (2009, 2011, 2013, 2017).
Taylor, who won gold medals in the men’s triple jump at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is seeking his fourth World Championships title with previous crowns in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
Taylor, who captured the men’s triple jump at the 2017 Drake Relays, is one of five gold medalists from the 2016 Rio De Janiero Olympics, who have competed at the Drake Relays and will represent Team USA at the World Championships.
Stefanidi from Greece, who earned the 2016 Olympic gold medal, is the reigning women’s World Outdoor champ in the women’s pole vault. She won the 2015 Drake Relays women’s invitational pole vault crown.
Other 2016 Olympic gold medalists on Team USA include Carter; Crouser, men’s shot put; Brianna McNeal, women’s 100 hurdles; and Matthew Centrowitz, men’s 1,500.
If that’s not enough Suhr, who won Drake Relays women’s pole vault titles in 2012 and 2018, captured the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Four-time defending Drake Relays champ Sandi Morris should challenge Stefanidi and Suhr for the women’s pole vault title. She earned a silver medal in the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2017 World Championships.
Renaud Lavillenie from France, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, will challenge Kendricks in the men’s pole vault. He won the 2014 Drake Relays invitational title.
Dalilah Muhammad, who set a world record in the women’s 400 hurdles (52.20) at the Drake Stadium during the USA Championships July 28, also will compete at the World Championships. She placed second in the 400 hurdles at the 2016 and 2018 Drake Relays.
The 2019 Drake Relays women’s invitational 100 hurdles saw six of the eight athletes who competed advance to the World Championships led by winner Keni Harrison, the reigning world record holder in the event. Canada’s Phylicia George, Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, Nia Alifrom the U.S. and Cindy Ofili from Great Britain, who finished third through sixth, respectively, also will run in the World Championships along with Pedyra Seymour from the Bahamas who was disqualified at Drake because of a false start.
The Drake Relays women’s high jump field featured six athletes who will be performing in the World Championships including Inika McPherson, Team USA; Lavern Spencer, Saint Lucia; Erika Kinsey, Sweden and Marusa Cernjul from Slovenia.
But 2018 Drake Relays champ Vashti Cunningham, the 2016 world indoor champion, ranks among the favorite in the women’s high jump.
11 Athletes With Iowa Ties Performing
There are 11 athletes competing that have strong Iowa ties led by the women’s trio of three-time Olympian Jenny Simpson (Webster City), 2016 Olympian Shelby Houlihan (Sioux City) and former West Des Moines Dowling Catholic prep standout Karissa Schweizer.
Houlihan clipped Simpson to win her second straight USA Outdoor title at Drake Stadium July 27. Houlihan was a major force in 2018 internationally, running a personal best of 3:57.34, but this year she has opted to only compete domestically, although she remains a genuine threat.
Her compatriot, Simpson, has proved an adept championship specialist having snared 2011 world gold and silver medals at both the 2013 and 2017, respectively.
Schweizer will compete in her first World Championships, running in the women’s 5000.
Kenny Bednarek, who opened eyes by winning the 2019 Drake Relays invitational men’s 200 while competing for Indian Hills Community College, could be a surprise in the sprints. He owns the fourth fastest time in the world this year of 19.82 seconds.
Iowa State graduate Hillary Bor, a 2016 Olympian, looks to be a force in the men’s 3000 steeplechase after capturing the USA Outdoor title at Drake Stadium July 28.
The University of Iowa will be represented by Brittany Brown, an 11-time NCAA All-American from 2014-18, who won the 200 at the 2019 USA Championships; along with senior Laulauga Tausaga in the women’s discus – an event in which she captured the 2019 NCAA title.
Tiny Iowa Central Community College has three former runners who will performer in the World Championships including Adva Cohen who will represent Israel in the women’s 3000 steeplechase. Cohen set a Drake Relays record en route to winning the women’s steeplechase title in 2018 while running for Iowa Central.
The most decorated athlete in World Championships history, Allyson Felix will likely see relay duty for Team USA’ women and will be looking to add to her record tally of 16 medals, 11 of them gold, in eight appearances. Felix ran in the 2006 Drake Relays.
This is the latest the World Championships has been held since the meet was created in 1983, and the latest global championship since the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney Australia.
The 2019 IAAF World Championships will be broadcast and streamed with more than 60 hours of competition coverage from Doha, Qatar available in the U.S. on NBC, NBC Sports Network and Olympic Channel,
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