News on the Drake Relays.

Andre De Grasse

Relays Announce the Return to Olympian Andre DeGrasse

Andre De Grasse © 2016

Andre De Grasse
© 2016

Andre De Grasse, a three-time Olympic medalist, is set to highlight the return of the invitational 100 meters to the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays, announced Thursday, Feb. 15.

Courtesy Drake Relays.  Feature photo: Andre De Grasse©
Video announcement, click here!
De Grasse’s Blue Oval debut marks the first time an invitational 100 meters has been staged at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee since 2005.
In 2016, De Grasse won three medals at the Rio Olympics, including bronze in the 100 meters behind Usain Bolt. With Bolt’s retirement, De Grasse is thought by many in the track and field community to be the heir apparent to the title ‘World’s Fastest Man.’
“Andre is one of the biggest rising stars in international sports and it will be a thrill for our fans to see him compete against a world-class field,” Boldon said. “It’s the first time we’ve hosted an invitational 100 meters in 13 years and Andre will be the best short sprinter to come to the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee since Michael Johnson 20 years ago. The return of the invitational 100 meters will be an electrifying ten seconds.”
In addition to that bronze medal in the 100 meters, De Grasse won silver in the 200 meters behind Bolt and bronze in the 4×100-meter relay as a member of the Canadian team. He has run the 100 meters in 10 seconds or less in a legal wind nine times in his career, including a personal best of 9.91 and has run as fast as 9.69 with a tailwind.
Relays’ fans unfamiliar with De Grasse’s speed and athleticism can watch the star in action Friday evening as part of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game. De Grasse is a member of ‘Team Clippers’ along with Jamie Foxx, Paul Pierce, Common, Bubba Watson and others.
“Andre’s participation in the NBA All-Star weekend goes to show that the Drake Relays presented Hy-Vee draws the biggest celebrities in sports,” Boldon added.
Boldon has scheduled De Grasse’s performance for the Saturday of Relays in front of a potential 53rd consecutive Saturday sellout at Drake Stadium. Starting Thursday, Feb. 15, fans can renew their single-session tickets for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. All-Session and All-American, Gold and Silver ticket packages are also available for purchase via or by calling 515-271-3647.
Trina Moreno-Urbandale-Utah
©Jim Kirby

Relays Announce Blue Standards For High School Athletes

McKenzie Yannek-PV-Alabama and Stephanie Jenks-Lin Mar-Cal ©Jim Kirby

McKenzie Yannek-PV-Alabama and Stephanie Jenks-Lin Mar-Cal
©Jim Kirby

For the second-straight year, the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee has announced an exciting addition enhancing its already robust high school competition. Beginning in 2018, Iowa’s top high school athletes can automatically qualify for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee by achieving the Blue Standard times and marks in their respective events, Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Relays announced Monday, Jan. 29.

Courtesy Drake Relays, click here!  Feature photo: Trina Moreno-Urbandale-Utah ©Jim Kirby-2016


“As a former Iowa high school athlete, I know that the Blue Standards would have changed my goals and how I approached my training to start each season,” Boldon said. “I hope this announcement excites Iowa’s top athletes to qualify for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee and gives athletes like myself who never qualified for the Drake Relays clear goals for this year and beyond.”

The addition of predetermined qualification standards will not change the entry process or field sizes for high school events. The Blue Standards were set by the Drake Relays committee based on historical data from the top 25 percent of accepted entries from past Drake Relays. For teams and athletes that do not attain a Blue Standard, the fields will be filled through the same protocol used in previous years.

“The Blue Standards will allow Iowa’s top athletes to share their excitement with coaches, teammates, families and communities on the same day they attain their Blue Standard qualifying mark for the 2018 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee,” Boldon added.

Click here to view the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee Blue Standards for the upcoming 109th Drake Relays

Boldon encourages those who achieve the Blue Standard to share their unique accomplishment on social media mentioning @DrakeRelays using the hashtags MYDRAKERELAYS and BLUEOVALBOUND.

The addition of the Blue Standards for automatic qualification continues Boldon’s commitment to recognize and provide opportunities for Iowa’s elite high school athletes. In his first year as the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Relays, he added a section to both the boys’ and girls’ 400-meter hurdles to add additional opportunities for Iowans in a strong event.

The 109th edition of the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee is scheduled for April, 25-28, 2018 at Drake Stadium.

All-session tickets for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee go on sale to the general public Tuesday, Jan. 30, at 9 a.m. Fans can secure their all-sessions tickets by calling the Drake Athletic Ticket office at 515-271-3647 or by visiting

Ryan Crouser-Texas, Ricky Robertson-Mississippi,  Erik Olson-Drake
©Jim Kirby 2018

Relays’ Elite Shot Put Competition Will be a Slam Dunk

Ryan Crouser-Texas competes in the Drake Relays' Slam Dunk Competition ©Jim Kirby 2018

Ryan Crouser-Texas competes in the Drake Relays’ Slam Dunk Competition
©Jim Kirby 2018

The 2018 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee will feature an elite men’s shot put competition for the first time since 2013, Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Drake Relays Director announced Tuesday, Jan. 30. Boldon also revealed the first wave of University Division teams set to compete for the Hy-Vee Cup on the Blue Oval.

Courtesy Drake Relays, click here! Feature photo:  Ryan Crouser-Texas, Ricky Robertson-Mississippi, Erik Olson-Drake©Jim Kirby 2018


Boldon’s announcement also marks the start of all-session ticket sales to the general public for the 109thinstallment of America’s Athletic Classic. To reserve all-session tickets, call the Drake Athletic Ticket Office at 515-271-3647 or visit

The men’s shot put returns to Drake Stadium with a field headlined by defending Olympic gold medalist and Olympic record holder Ryan Crouser. Crouser owns a personal best of 74-3.75 (22.65m) after setting the Olympic record at 73-10.5 (22.52m) to become the first American gold medalist in the event since 2004. The Oregon native who competed for the University of Texas enters this outdoor season with the world record in his sights and will return to Drake Stadium for the USA Championships in June.

Crouser will make his 2018 Des Moines debut in a different venue when he competes in a one-of-a-kind dunk competition Tuesday evening as part of Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee Night at the Drake vs. SIU men’s basketball game. During halftime of the contest, Crouser, who stands at 6-8 and weights more than 300 pounds, will compete against high jumper Ricky Robertson and Drake track & field student-athlete Erik Olson. Robertson is a 2016 Olympian who owns a personal best of 7-7.25 (2.32m) in the high jump and was a 10-time All-American at Mississippi. Drake standout Erik Olson, a pole vaulter, will join as the lone amateur in the field and test his mettle on the Knapp Center rims.

Olson is also one of the many collegiate athletes primed to compete at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee as Boldon announced the first list of university teams that promise to make the competition for the Hy-Vee Cup, awarded to the top scoring teams in relay events, another can’t-be-missed event.

More than 30 teams will be represented in the clash for the Hy-Vee Cup with five of those teams currently boasting a national ranking. In the men’s division, reigning Hy-Vee Cup champion No. 22 Iowa and No. 24 Ohio State will be in attendance along with programs such as Air Force, Illinois and Missouri, among others. The defending women’s Hy-Vee Cup Champion, No. 15 Ohio State aims to hold on to the Cup but will be challenged by No. 11 Minnesota and No. 22 Iowa State for the prestigious honor. Iowa’s men’s 4×400-meter relay team is ranked eighth in the nation with a time of 3:07.54 after helping the Hawkeyes claim the Hy-Vee Cup last year. That relay team features junior Mar’yea Harris. Harris’ 400-meter time of 46.50 is currently the 13th fastest in the nation this indoor season.

Ohio State boasts a pair of pole-vaulters tied at 13th in the nation with junior Coty Cobb and senior Cole Gorski both recording season bests of 17-6.5 (5.35m). The pair will challenge South Dakota sophomore Chris Nilsen. His season-best mark of 18-9.25 (5.72m) makes him the current NCAA leader. As a freshman, Nilsen competed in the invitational section of the pole vault and finished second in a field of professionals behind only 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World Champion Sam Kendricks.

Nilsen won’t be the only current NCAA leader potentially competing at the 2018 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. Illinois freshman Jon Davis’ mile time of 3:55.46 mile is currently tops in the NCAA as he became just the 498th American to break the 4-minute mile barrier last weekend. His teammate David Kendziera is tied for ninth in the nation in the 60-meter hurdles at 7.76 and tied for fastest among potential Relays athletes along with Iowa’s Chris Douglas.

In the women’s University division, there are a number of high ranking individual athletes including Relays’ favorite Karissa Schweizer of Missouri. She is slated to return to the Blue Oval and currently holds the NCAA lead in the mile at 4:27.54 and in the 5,000 meters at 15:17.31. Schweizer is a three-time NCAA Champion and four-time All-American. At the 2017 Drake Relays, she got elevated to the elite women’s 1,500 meters and finished eighth in a field that included 11 professional athletes and six Olympians including Jenny Simpson.

Relay teams from Purdue and Ohio State are sure to make certain the clash for the Hy-Vee Cup comes down to the final event as the Boilermakers will bring in the sixth-ranked 4×400-meter relay team in the nation. Ohio State’s 4×400-meter relay team is close behind, currently sitting in eighth place after helping the Buckeyes claim the Cup last year.

In the women’s field events, Air Force’s Shelley Spires is second in the NCAA in the high jump with a height of 6-0.75. Not far behind is Eastern Illinois’ Haleigh Knapp whose height of 6-0.5 puts her five spots back of Spires in seventh nationally.

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Mike Byrnes

USATF Championships Back to Drake 2018

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Arizona St ©Erik Aguilar

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Arizona St
©Erik Aguilar

The USATF Outdoor Championships are returning to Des Moines June 21-24, 2018. The best track and field athletes in the country will compete this summer at Drake University’s Drake Stadium in what will be the final stop of the 2018 USATF Championship Series. The meet will be broadcast on the NBC family of networks and webcast on NBC Sports Gold.

Courtesy USATF, click here! Feature photo: Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado©Mike Byrnes

Drake Stadium has previously hosted the USATF Outdoor Championships twice, in 2010 and 2013, with two American records falling at each championship. In 2013, 2016 Olympic gold medalist Brianna Rollins provided a glimpse of what was to come by setting the American Record in the women’s 100m hurdles (12.26), and Amanda Bingson broke the AR in the women’s hammer throw (75.73m/248-5.25). In 2010, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Chaunte Lowe broke the high jump AR (2.05 m/6’8.75) and Kara Winger set the AR in the women’s javelin (66.67 m/218-8​.75).


Drake has hosted the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 1970 (men only), 2008, 2011, and 2012, and annually hosts the Drake Relays, which in 2018 will celebrate its 109th year.


More information will be available in coming weeks at, including ticket prices, broadcast details, and competition schedules.



USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track and field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world’s oldest organized sports, some of the most-watched events of Olympic broadcasts, the country’s No. 1 high school and junior high school participatory sport and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States. For more information on USATF, visit

Allyson Felix
©Jim Kirby

Drake Relay Alums Make Us Proud in London

Omar McLeod- Jamaica ©Jim Kirby

Omar McLeod- Jamaica
©Jim Kirby

With the 2017 IAAF Track & Field World Championships concluding this past weekend in London, the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee had alumni posting many outstanding medal winning performances to garner 10 gold, eight silver and 10 bronze medals during the event.  Individual gold medal winners who competed at the 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee included Kori Carter (400mH), Phyllis Francis (400m), Sam Kendricks (Pole Vault), Omar McLeod (110mH) and Brittney Reese (Long Jump).

Courtesy Drake Relays, click here! Feature photo: Allyson Felix ©Jim Kirby 2013

Overall, the United States set a team record for the most medals at the World Championships with 30 (10-gold, 11-silver, 9-bronze) while three-time Drake Relays champion Brittney Reese became the first woman to win four World long jump gold medals and only the second woman to win four golds in a single event (Valerie Adams, shot put).  Below is a listing of the medalists with their last appearance year at the Relays in parentheses.  Unless noted otherwise, athletes represented the United States.



  • Shelby Houlihan-5K (2017 Bowerman Track Club)
  • Morolake Akinosun – Gold-4x100m Relay (2016-Texas)
  • Kori Carter – Gold-400m Hurdles (2017)
  • Michelle Carter – Bronze-Shot Put (2016)
  • Allyson Felix – Bronze-400m, Gold-4x100m Relay, Gold-4x400m Relay (2006)
  • Phyllis Francis – Gold-400m, Gold-4x400m Relay (2015)
  • Dawn Harper-Nelson – Silver-100m Hurdles (2017)
  • Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas) – Bronze-200m (2013-Georgia)
  • Sandi Morris – Silver-Pole Vault (2017)
  • Dalilah Muhammad – Silver-400m Hurdles (2016)
  • Brittney Reese – Gold-Long Jump (2017)
  • Yarisley Silva (Cuba) – Bronze-Pole Vault (2014)
  • Jenny Simpson – Silver-1500m (2017)
  • Ekaterini Stefanidi (Greece) – Gold-Pole Vault (2016)
  • Ristananna Tracey (Jamaica) – Bronze-400m Hurdles (2015)
  • Ajee Wilson – Bronze-800m (2015)


  • Will Claye – Silver-Triple Jump (2016)
  • Kerron Clement – Bronze-400m Hurdles (2016)
  • Sam Kendricks – Gold-Pole Vault (2017)
  • Renaud Lavillenie (France) – Bronze-Pole Vault (2015)
  • Jarrion Lawson – Silver-Long Jump (2015-Arkansas)
  • Wil London – Silver-4x400m Relay (2016-Baylor)
  • Omar McLeod – Gold-110m Hurdles (2017)
  • Gil Roberts – Silver-4x400m Relay (2015)
  • Mike Rodgers – Silver-4x100m Relay (2007)
  • Jarrin Solomon (Trinidad & Tobago) – Gold 4x400m Relay (2013)
  • Christian Taylor – Gold-Triple Jump (2017)
  • Rabah Yousif (Great Britain) – Bronze-4x400m Relay (2016)
  • Stipe Žunic (Croatia) – Bronze-Shot Put (2012-Florida)
Jim Patterson-Drake Official
©Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette

50 Memorable Years for Jim Patterson by J.R. Ogden of The Gazette

Jim Patterson-Drake Official ©Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette

Jim Patterson-Drake Official
©Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette

Imagine 50 years of head shakes and eye rolls from athletes. Or 50 years of calls questioned by coaches.

Imagine 50 years of overbearing parents screaming insults.

For Jim Patterson of Cedar Rapids, it’s been 50 fantastic years.

Courtesy The Gazette by J.R. Ogden, click here! Feature photo: Jim Patterson-Drake Official ©Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette


“I’ve enjoyed it all,” said Patterson, one of 11 men honored for a half century of service at the IHSAA’s 23rd annual Officials Recognition Banquet and Awards Ceremony at the Iowa Events Center.

Patterson officiated football for 37 years, landing nine state championship games. He still considers himself a football official first, even though he’s been working track and field meets for 40 years — and still working them today.

“My time to retire is getting closer,” he said last week while driving to Des Moines to work the Drake Relays.

He said he’s worked with and met some great people over the years — coaches and other officials.

But it’s the athletes who keep him working.

“I love being around kids,” he said. “It keeps you young.”

Not surprisingly, he’s seen lots of changes, too. He said athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. The way games are officiated are different, too. When he started working football, three officials called the game. When he retired in 2004, there were five. There now are two starters at all track meets.

But some things haven’t changed.

“The kids are the same, the coaches are the same,” he said. “(The coaches) are people who want to win, people who care about the kids.”

And those parents? Patterson hesitated when asked, then referred to an article in last week’s Gazette by correspondent and youth sports advocate Nancy Justis that, basically, told parents to “simmer down.”

“That was very to the point,” he said, adding “I’ve always been very big on sportsmanship.

“We have become too specialized. We don’t give kids a chance to become creative” in a variety of sports.

He’s seen some of the best athletes in Eastern Iowa, too, and worked some great games. He noted an Iowa City High-Bettendorf football playoff game when Tim Dwight was leading the Little Hawks and noted “any time you get a chance to work a state championship game, that’s a big highlight.”

But one of his favorite events is Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s annual coed track and field meet, now known as the Draxton-Stiers/Wilkinson Invitational after coaches Dudley Draxton, Al Stiers and Harold Wilkinson.

“Three great people,” Patterson said. “They meant a lot to me.”

Patterson, too, has meant a lot to a lot of people.

In addition to his officiating, he was a physical education teacher at Coolidge Elementary and “coached everything” at Taft Middle School, where he started the softball program and also coached football, basketball and baseball.

James Wood of Center Point was another of the 50-year honorees. And there were several other area honorees, as well, including Daniel Thomas of Cedar Rapids as one of five “aspiring new officials,” Patrick Pacha of Washington (Iowa) as softball official of the year and Chris Oberbroeckling of Marion as baseball official of the year.

Omar McLeod- Jamaica
©Jim Kirby

Drake Relays Announces the Outstanding Performers

Joy Ripslinger-Assumption, winner of the Gerry Cooley Award (High School Girls)   ©Jim Kirby 2017

Joy Ripslinger-Assumption, winner of the Gerry Cooley Award (High School Girls)
©Jim Kirby 2017

The 108th edition of the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee thrilled nearly 40,000 fans over four days of action with tremendous performances across all divisions. A total of four Drake Relays records were broken or tied and three world-leading marks were established. On Monday, May 1, the best of those performances were honored with the announcement of the Relays Most Outstanding Performers.

Of this year’s honorees, three are past Drake Relays champions who once again rose above the tremendous competition on the Blue Oval to be recognized as the best of the best from the latest installment of ‘America’s Athletic Classic.’
Those winners include Omar McLeod as the Maury White Award winner, Minnesota-Duluth’s Emilee Trost as the women’s invitational/collegiate Most Outstanding Performer, Mt. Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs as the Robert Kramme Award winner and Davenport Assumption’s Joy Ripslinger Donahue as the recipient of the Gerry Cooley Award.
For the second time in his career and the first as a professional, Olympic gold medalist Omar McLeod has been named the Maury White Award winner. The award is given annually to the top performer from the men’s invitational and collegiate divisions. McLeod, who was a co-winner of the award in 2015 as a collegian at Arkansas, earned the honor by breaking his Drake Relays record in the men’s 110-meter hurdles. McLeod won in 13.04, bettering his previous record by 0.04 seconds. McLeod’s time is the fastest in the world this season and earned him his third-straight Drake Relays title.
“It means a lot. Any record means a lot. It shows you’re consistent and right where you want to be,” McLeod said. “This meet means a lot to me. I’ve been opening up my season here since I was in college so this has become a tradition. Every time I come here, I try to put on a show. These fans are loyal, so I want to put on a show for them.”
The voting for the women’s collegiate/invitational Drake Relays Most Outstanding Performer gave the nod to a first-time collegiate winner in Emilee Trost from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
The junior put together a groundbreaking Drake Relays double. Trost won the women’s university-college 800 on Friday, then came back Saturday to outrun 10 competitors in the 1,500 meters to mark the first time the 800/1,500 meter double has been accomplished in the women’s division. She won the 1,500 meters in 4:24.71, finishing more than four seconds ahead of runner-up Amanda Gehrich of Utah. On Friday, she won the 800 meters with a personal best of 2:05.65.
“To get a flag is pretty special and I’m really blessed to be able to do that,” Trost said after winning the 800 meters.
The high school competitions produced record-setting performances as they have for generations at Drake Stadium, but there was a pair that were near-unanimous selections for Most Outstanding Performer.
Mt. Vernon’s Tristan Wirfs was the runaway vote-getter for the Robert Kramme Award, given to the top boys high school competitor.
Wirfs headlined a historic boys’ shot put competition as four athletes launched throws of more than 60 feet. Wirfs winning throw of 66-3 ½, which ranks sixth in the country this year and second in Drake Relays history trailing only Cedar Rapids Jefferson Doug Lane’s meet record of 67-2 ¼. Wirfs became the 12th in meet history to win back-to-back Drake Relays titles in the boys shot put. Less than 24 hours later, Wirfs completed the rare double with a victory in the boys’ discus Friday morning. Wirfs launched a throw of 190-1, which ranks 26th in the country this year. Wirfs’ throw was the best winning throw at the Drake Relays since Thomas Reynolds of Iowa City West won the 2008 title with a heave of 191-0. Wirfs also became the fifth prep in Relays history to sweep the throwing titles, joining Newton’s Chase Madison (2004), Camanche’s Scott Schaley (1993) Davenport West’s Dave Juehring (1982) and Glenwood’s Scott Davis (1988).
“Sweeping the throwing events is amazing,” Wirfs said. “In the shot put, Jared Brinkman of Regina threw a big throw and I knew I had to get another big one out there and I threw 66-3 ½. In the discus I fouled my first throw and wanted to get a throw out there and hit 172-4 and then was able to hit 190-1 and just tried to keep it rolling.”
Davenport Assumption’s Joy Riplslinger was the unanimous choice as the Gerry Cooley Award given to the most outstanding girls’ senior high school competitor at the Drake Relays. Riplslinger finished her high school career with seven Drake Relays titles after winning the 800 and 1,500 meters on the Blue Oval. With the sweep, she joined Stephanie Jenks and Shelby Houlihan to become just the third athlete to complete the sweep. She won the 1,500 meters in 4:31.91 after claiming the 800 meters in 2:10.47. She also ran a leg on the team’s 4×400-meter and sprint medley relay teams that both finished second.
“I know there have been so many talented distance runners come through and I’m just glad to leave my mark,” Ripslinger said after winning the 1,500 meters. “A couple of years ago, I never would have guessed I’d be in the same category as those girls (Jenks and Houlihan). They were my role models and still are, so it’s cool to be compared to them.”
The 108th Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee featured the 52nd consecutive Saturday sellout with 14,504 fans crowded around the Blue Oval after more than 16,000 fans streamed through the gates during the two Friday sessions. The 109th edition of America’s Athletic Classic is scheduled for April 25-28, 2018.
2017 Drake Relays Most Outstanding Performers
Maury White Award (Collegiate/Invitational Men) – Omar McLeod
Collegiate/Invitational Women – Emilee Trost – Minnesota-Duluth
Robert Kramme Award (High School Boys) –  Tristan Wirfs – Mt. Vernon
Gerry Cooley Award (High School Girls) – Joy Ripslinger – Davenport Assumption
Joey Woody & the Iowa Hawkeyes
©Darren Miller 2017

Hawks Win Hy Vee Cup at the Drake Relays

Carter Lilly-SC East-Iowa ©Darren Miller

Carter Lilly-SC East-Iowa
©Darren Miller

The University of Iowa Men’s track and field Team captured the 2017 Hyvee Cup at the Drake Relays on Saturday.

Courtesy Hawkeye Athletics, click here! Feature photo: Coach Joey Woody and the Hawkeyes ©Darren

Iowa takes the title back to Iowa City after accumulating 39 team points including three relay victories. The three relay wins are the most for Iowa at the Drake Relays in the event’s 108-year history. The women’s team finished seventh with 12 points.

“This has been one of our goals the past few years since they came up with this concept,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said of the championship. “It’s a lot of fun and it makes it a team atmosphere. This is what we have been talking about all year, winning relays and individual titles because we did well individually too.”

The Hawkeye men won the 4×800 meters (7:24.77), 4×400 meters (3:07.35), and sprint medley relay (3:20.40).

Iowa runs two sophomores and two freshmen on the 4×400 meter relay. As the team enters the postseason, their relays are clicking.

“To be a freshman and to be surrounded by these guys is great,” freshman Emmanuel Ogwo said about his 4×400 teammates. “They take their job very seriously so coming into practice every day, the energy is high and the expectations are high.”

In addition, Iowa has won the sprint medley relay in three out of the past six years at the Drake Relays and won their first 4×400 meter relay since 1967.

Junior Carter Lilly was on two championship relays – the sprint medley relay and 4×800. As a native Iowan, there is nothing better than coming to Drake and giving the fans a show.

“It’s always fun to come to Drake and win flags,” Lilly said. “I’ve wanted to be a Hawkeye since I was a kid so to be able to come here and represent the University is really cool.”

The women joined in with a win of their own in the 4×100 meters. The squad of sophomore Taylor Chapman, sophomore Briana Guillory, senior Alexis Hernandez, and junior Brittany Brown came from behind on the front stretch to win their first relay title in the event since 2014.

Individually, senior Aaron Mallett won his first Drake Relays title in his final appearance as a Hawkeye. Mallett’s 13.47 in the 110 meter hurdles won the event and was a seasons best.

“He’s been fighting to get that title the past couple years,” Woody said. “Unfortunately he has had some Olympic gold medalists in front of him. For him to come out on top was great and he had a phenomenal performance today that will set him up well for Big Tens.”

Sophomore Reno Tuufuli won Iowa’s fifth title of the weekend with a 59.34m mark in the men’s discus for his first Drake Relay championship and in his second appearance at the event.

“It’s been a very successful meet for me,” Tuufuli said. “I never came here in high school but to see it in college is very overwhelming.”

Moving forward there is one standard for Woody’s team.

“We expect success every time we step on the track.” he said.

The postseason begins with the Big Ten Championships, hosted by Penn State May 12-14.

Alex Wilson-Mt. Vernon Lisbon-UNI
©Jim Kirby

Memories From the Drake Relays: Alex Wilson

Alex Wilson-Mt. Vernon Lisbon-UNI ©Jim Kirby

Alex Wilson-Mt. Vernon Lisbon-UNI
©Jim Kirby

There is just something about the Drake Relays. I competed at the Drake Relays all throughout high school (Mt. Vernon-Lisbon), college (UNI), and now professionally (Oiselle) and had some of my biggest break through races on the blue oval.
I feel extremely fortunate to have such a high quality meet right here in Iowa. I think it gives Iowa preps a chance to see the levels of competition out there and helps give them goals to aspire to!

Jenny Simpson and Mike Mahon
©Jim Kirby-2013

Memories From the Drake Relays: Mike Mahon

Mike Mahon ©Special to Next Level Iowa

Mike Mahon
©Special to Next Level Iowa

I’ve attended several World Series, Olympics, numerous NCAA Final Fours and NCAA Championships but the Drake Relays always holds a fond spot in my heart.

Feature photo: Jenny Simpson and Mike Mahon ©Jim Kirby-2013

First and foremost it’s the oldest and best sports tradition in Iowa. There’s no other sporting event in the Hawkeye state where fans can see annually the best athletes in the world, including numerous Olympic gold medalists, perform in front of them forming memories to last a lifetime.

Any native Iowan who has achieved success in track and field on the international level — Rex Harvey, Rick Wanamaker, Randy Wilson, Natasha Kaiser, Kevin Little, Joey Woody, Kip Janvrin, Kim Carson, Lolo Jones, Al Feuerbach, Shelby Houlihan — will be the first to tell you that participating in the Drake Relays as a prep was their first exposure to big time track and field ultimately giving them a career goal to achieve.

This weekend will mark my 46th Drake Relays so to pick one favorite Drake Relays moment is impossible.

I served  as media coordinator for the Drake Relays for 22 years (1989-2010) which also paved the way for me to serve as a press officer for numerous U.S. Track and Field teams at the international level including the 1992, 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics.

I was able to develop friendships with numerous Olympians who competed at the Drake Relays.

I was fortunate to serve as chairman of the Drake Relays executive committee in 1996 which was special because Michael Johnson – voted the Drake Relays Athlete of the Century – was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame that year.

On that Saturday session of the Drake Relays  the Olympic torch had landed in Los Angeles from Athens, Greece – the birthplace of the Olympics – to begin its long cross country torch run eventually to Atlanta where the Olympics would be held later that sumer.

Johnson made it no secret that he would attempt to be the first sprinter ever to win the 200 and 400 at the same Olympics. His historic quest would began with his season outdoor opener running the invitational 400 at the 1996 Drake Relays.

He shattered the Drake Relays 400 record, winning in :44.41. The race helped put Johnson on a course to the Atlanta Olympic Games where he solidified his No. 1 world ranking by winning the gold medal in the 200 in a world record :19.32. For frosting, Johnson won the 400 in :43.49 – an Olympic record.

“It was my first 400 of the season and I’m pleased,” said Johnson, while saluting the Drake Relays fans. “They love track and field and make you feel appreciated. These people know the difference between a :44.30 and a :$5.30. You don’t see that often in the states. “

Johnson would return to the Drake Relays  one last time – the following year – after being named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year in 1996.

Drake Relays fans had vivid memories of Johnson’s heroics in the 1996 Atlanta Games as well as his unbeaten record in Drake Relays individualindividual events.

This time he arrived in a limosine entering Drake Stadium along the Clark Street entrance before a standing room only crowd. The weather was near perfect and the track side gauge showed zero wind. It was dead quiet as runners came to the set position. The gun cracked and the crowd roared

Wearing gold shoes, Johnson won the invitational 200 in :20.05 – another Drake Relays record.

He took a victory lap, raising both arms, but he was unable to complete it as he headed down the final straightaway being mobbed by fans.

We made eye contact and he sprinted with me to the southwest tunnel where he was able to savor the moment before conducting a press conference.

During his Drake Relays career Johnson won four invitational 400s, two invitational 400 and led Baylor to two victories apiece in the 4×200 and 4×400 relays.

At the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece where I introduced myself to Nawal El Moutawakil, who was in the mixed zone at Olympic Stadium as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

As a freshman at Iowa State in the 1984 Drake Relays, she set a national collegiate record of :55.37 in the women’s 400 hurdles.  Later that summer she would win the inaugural women’s 400 hurdles event at the 1984  Olympics, becoming the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal

When Nawal found out I was associated with the Drake Relays, she hugged me and became emotional with tears of joy telling me she owed all of her success in track to the Drake Relays. She told how she passed down her Drake Relays watch to her oldest daughter.

I fondly recall the first Drake Relays I attended as a sophomore in high school watching Brigham Young’s Ralph Mann setting a Drake Relays, American and national collegiate record in the 440 yard hurdles of 49.4 seconds  at the 1970 Drake Relays.

He returned a month later to Drake Stadium setting a  world record at 1970 NCAA Outdoor Championships in :48.8 – the second of three straight NCAA titles. He would go on to earn a silver medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Here are some other magical moments from my Drake Relays memory bank.

—In 1977 the Drake Relays invitational 800 featured former world record holder and two-time Olympian Rick Wohlhuter, Kenya’s Mike Boit, who won the bronze medal in the 1972 Olympics; and Oklahoma’s Randy WIlson, a native of Knoxville, Iowa.

The taller Wilson, who had earlier anchored Oklahoma to a sprint medley relay victory, surprised Boit and Wohlhuter in the final meters to win in 1:46.06. Boit was second in 1:46.13 and Wohlhuter third in 1:46.14.

A year later Wilson outdueled Boit again with his long strides shading Boit at the tape in a record 1:45.86—  that still stands today.

Boit returned to Drake Stadium in 2009 being honored as one of the top 10 Drake Relays Athletes of the Century. I set up a surprise reunion of Wilson and Boit with the rivals meeting each other for the first time in more than 30 years.

—Steve Scott running the first sub-4 minute mile in Drake Relays history in 1979 in 3:55.26, the first individual sub-4 minute race in 70 years of Drake Relays competition.

He had emerged as America’s top miler in the 1970s. He had promised to run in the 1978 Drake Relays but was injured. He did come to Drake, however, and told the crowd over the public address that he would return in 1979 “to break that record.”

Now it’s 1979 and Scott was back, but as he stepped onto the track he murmured,  “Oh, no!” as he felt wind gusting to 32 miles per hour.  But he took charge running the first 440 in a crisp :57.6 followed by a 1:59.5 that got the crowd into the race. Booming sound followed him throughout the final leg, the sub-4 in sight. Fans were on their feet yelling, ignoring a Relays tradition of remaining seated so all could see.

He came off the final curve in a long hard sprint to the finish. He broke the tape, looked back at the scoreboard and raised his arms, grinning widely.

—Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis made his Drake Relays debut in 1994, winning the invitational 100.

—Gwen Torrence became the all-time women’s victory leader at eight during the 1995 Drake Relays after winning the invitational 400. After the race she delighted the crowd by tossing her shoes into the stands.

Torrence, who closed out her Drake Relays career winning the 200 in 1996, won a won a combined three gold medals and three silver medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.

—WIth victory laps becoming a long Drake Relays tradition, I have to admit it was emotional to see Bob Ehrhart’s 31-year reign as the longest Drake Relays director come to an end at 5:33 p.m. on Saturday April 29,2000 when he took a ride in a golf cart around the track saluting the fans  for their support in making the Drake Relays “America’s Athletic Classic.”

His first Relays as director in 1970 attracted 2,763 athletes; by 2000 9,185 athletes competed in Ehrhart’s farewell Relays. That meet was the 34th Saturday sellout – 31 under Ehrhart’s direction.

—Who can ever forget Mark Kostek’s first year as Drake Relays director in 2001 when four records were set within a 50-minute stretch around the entire configuration of the track.

Behind the quartet of twin sisters Jenny and Susanna Kallur, Camee’ Williams and anchor Perdita Felicien, Illinois opened the Saturday afternoon portion of the Drake Relays setting a meet, national collegiate and world record in the women’s shuttle hurdle relay of 56.04.

Twenty minutes later across the east side of Drake Stadium Kellie Suttle became the fourth woman in the world to clear 15 feet in the pole vault and the first at Drake, setting a meet record at 15-0 1/4.

Fans had trouble shuttling between the final stages of Suttle’s vaulting and the high jump at the north end where two-time Olympian Amy Acuff made a conspicuous Drake Relays debut soaring 6-3 3/4 for another meet record.

If that wasn’t enough, completing a full circle around the track, on her sixth and final throw Terry Tunks drew a roar from the crowd setting a Drake Stadium record in the women’s shot put at 63-0 1/4.

—The 2003 finale at the Drake Relays had never seen a closer finish as Arizona State won the men’s university 4×400 relay by one-hundredth of a second, 3:02.81 to Baylor’s 3:02.82. Baylor’s anchor Jeremy Wariner would go on to win the gold medal in the 400 at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

—Alan Webb breaking Steve Scott’s prized  30-year-old record in mile at the 2007 Drake Relays in 3:51.71 – the fastest time ever record in the mile in the month of April in track history with the mark still standing today

Webb’s opening 1:55.4 for the first-half mile got fans into it. Webb’s rhythmic, confident strides carried him to a 2:55.9 clocking after three quarters. He accelerated off the final curve “feeling” the booming support of the sold out crowd. He hit the finish line and checked the scoreboard, his final quarter in 57.6.

Three months later Webb would eventually break Scott’s 25-year-old American record in the mile, running 3:46.91 in Brasschaat, Belgium.

—Iowa’s Anthuan Maybank named outstanding performer of 1993 Drake Relays after becoming first person ever to run sub 45-second 400 and long jump over 26 feet in same meet.