News on the Drake Relays.

Ashley Miller, Brooke & Blair Dinsdale, Ellen Dougherty
©Jim Kirby

Memories From the Drake Relays: Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska ©Jim Kirby

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska
©Jim Kirby

Ashley Miller.  Graduate of Tipton HS and the University of Nebraska.  Iowa’s only 15 time track and field state champion also won three Drake Relays 800M titles in high school.

Feature Photo: Ashley Miller, Brooke & Blair Dinsdale, Ellen Dougherty ©Jim Kirby

The Drake Relays are one of the premier athletic events in the entire state of Iowa, and being raised in a state that tremendously values track and field tradition was certainly a motivational factor for me to put forth my best efforts in front of the home crowd. My first Drake Relays experience was in 2004, as a little high school freshman, where I qualified in the 800 meter-run, as well as with a few relay teams for the Tipton Tigers. Going into this meet, I was ranked #1 in the 800, so I remember experiencing paradoxical emotions; nervousness, because I was only a freshman and had never run in front of a crowd that big, yet also feelings of ease due to being a freshman and really having nothing to prove.

I ended up winning the high school girls 800 meter-run in my inaugural Relays, and to this day, that race was one of the most memorable days of my life. Imagine being a novice 15 year-old finishing to the roar of the crowd, receiving a white champion flag, and getting the honor of taking a victory lap, just like the professionals. Talk about a young athlete’s dream come true! This first notable championship at the Drake Relays really bolstered my athletic career, contributing my confidence, drive to compete at the collegiate level (and beyond), and the recognition to make these dreams a reality.

Fast forward a few more Drake Relays 800 meter-run titles and 15 state track and field titles later, I was fortunate to return to the blue oval while competing for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. During my collegiate tenure, I was always welcomed home with open arms and unmatchable crowd support. Some notable memories included competing on an all-Iowa prep 4×800-meter relay with Brooke (Dinsdale) Schupbach, Blaire Dinsdale, and Ellen (Dougherty) Mangieri, and bringing home my only collegiate Drake Relays flag in my final attempt, winning the 2012 collegiate 1500 meter-run in then-record fashion.

Although I have now hung up my track racing spikes, I will never forget my amazing experiences at the Drake Relays. The athletes, volunteers, and fans make this event one of the best track and field events in the world, and I will always take pride in being a native Iowan rooted in that history.

Ashley Miller, MS, RDN, LD

Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake & Connor Wells-Roosevelt-Drake
©Doug Wells

Memories of the Drake Relays: Brogan Austin

Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake ©Doug Wells

Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake
©Doug Wells

Brogan Austin, Boone HS and Drake University.  Won Class 3A state meet titles in the 1600M run and 3200M run in 2010.  Brogan won 4 Missouri Valley 5K titles while at Drake as well as qualifying for the NCAA XC championships and winning a Drake Relays 5K crown.

Feature photo: Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake and Connor Wells-Roosevelt-Drake ©Doug Wells 2015

I remember the first time I learned about the Drake Relays my freshman year of high school and the hype and excitement that came with it. My high school track teammates would voice their ongoing fantasies about competing at the Drake relays where Iowa’s best high school athletes share the blue oval with the nation’s best professional and collegiate athletes. After watching my first Drake Relays my Freshman year, I too knew this was an event I wanted to be a part of. It wasn’t until my senior year that I made the elite list of top 24 in the state to qualify for the high school 3200 and 1600 meter races. I ultimately finished 2nd in both races but the losses and experience of the Drake Relays educated me on how much better I can and needed to be.

The Drake Relays brings a unique asset to the track and field world, where athletes have the opportunity to compete in front of a sold out stadium of 14,000 fans and potentially spark a love for the sport as it did for me my freshman year of high school. It is these types of events that get athletes excited about sports in the first place and helps the US stay competitive at the Olympics year after year. After my disappointing runner up finishes in high school, I always knew I would come back until I got a relays title. In college, I finished runner up at the relays two more times but was able to snag a championship my Junior year in the 5,000m, which has been one of my proudest running accomplishments to date.

Now as a professional athlete, I still have the same admiration and love for the sport of track and field, which is largely due to the Drake Relays, and I look forward to competing in my 6th Drake Relays this year.

Coach Gary Wilson

Memories of The Drake Relays: Coach Gary Wilson

Coach Gary Wilson-Minnesota ©Jim Kirby

Coach Gary Wilson-Minnesota
©Jim Kirby

Gary Wilson.  Longtime Head Coach of Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country at the University of Minnesota:

Every once in a while in our sport, a meet becomes much more than just track and field events. Instead it becomes a family gathering.

A place where athletes and fans and officials come together for a few days to make connections that they have enjoyed for years.

I have come to Drake since 1975 and still run into friends from that first year.

Drake is important not only to Iowa but also to the entire Midwest and nation.

It is so comfortable to be there year after year. It’s like coming home.

Grand Blue Mile 2016

Grand Blue Mile Now Part of USA 1 Mile Championships

Chad Noelle after his 2016 Grand Blue Mile victory.  His winning time was 4:12.11 ©Jim Kirby 2016

Chad Noelle after his 2016 Grand Blue Mile victory. His winning time was 4:12.11
©Jim Kirby 2016

Grand Blue Mile (GBM) officials from Wellmark and the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee announced the USA Track & Field 1 Mile Road Championships will be returning as part of the annual Grand Blue Mile in 2017 and 2018. The addition of the prestigious USA 1 Mile Road Championships further elevates the elite-level competition of Grand Blue Mile and is expected to attract several 2016 Olympians from across the country to vie for a national title and share of the $30,000 prize purse. The Grand Blue Mile also hosted the 2013 and 2014 USA 1 Mile Road Championships.

Courtesy of the Drake Relays, Click Here! Feature photo: Chad Noelle leads the pack in the 2016 Grand Blue Mile. His winning time was 4:12.11©Jim Kirby 2016

“We are honored to welcome back the USA 1 Mile Road Championships to the Midwest’s premier community street run,” said Chris Verlengia, Wellmark corporate sponsorship manager. “The Grand Blue Mile has gained notoriety over the past seven years as one of the best races in the nation because of its appeal to runners of all ages and abilities. Hosting these championships on the heels of USA Track & Field’s historic showing in Rio brings a national focus to the overall goal of Grand Blue Mile — encouraging healthy habits and empowering positive change.”

In 2014, more than 25 American track and field stars competed for the national title at GBM. Leo Manzano, 2012 Olympic 1500m silver medalist, won the men’s championship with a time of 4:05.71. The women’s championship was captured by Heather Kampf, who set a course record of 4:32.62. She followed that performance with consecutive GBM Invitational Championship titles in 2015 and 2016, becoming the event’s first competitor to successfully three-peat.

Coming off the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 2017 GBM has the potential to see several medalists and finalists return to Des Moines. A few of the 2016 Olympians who have participated in past GBMs include:

·         Matthew Centrowitz – Gold medalist in the 1500m and 2015 GBM Invitational Champion
·         Bernard Lagat – 5th place finish in the 5000m
·         Nathan Brannen – 10th place finish in the 5000m
·         Shannon Rowbury – 4th place finish in the 1500m
·         Kate Grace – 8th place finish in the 800m and 2013 USA 1 Mile Champion (Grand Blue Mile)

“Now in its eighth running, the Grand Blue Mile continues to captivate the national track and field community, while providing an unparalleled Drake Relays experience for thousands of central Iowans,” said Blake Boldon, Drake Relays director. “We’re thankful to Wellmark for their visionary partnership in helping develop this special tradition.”

Last year’s GBM drew more than 4,200 registrants who participated among the elite, competitive, recreational run/walk, and corporate team categories. The one-mile course loops through the streets of downtown Des Moines, finishing in Des Moines Western Gateway. Registration for the 2017 Grand Blue Mile, which takes place on April 25, opens in February.

For more information on the Grand Blue Mile, visit www.GrandBlueMile.com.

Chad Noelle leads the pack in the 2016 Grand Blue Mile.  His winning time was 4:12.11
©Jim Kirby 2016

Registration is Now Open For the 2017 Drake Relays Grand Blue Mile and Road Races

Heather Kampf repeats as champion in the 2016 Grand Blue Mile in a time of 4:37.52 ©Jim Kirby 2016

Heather Kampf repeats as champion in the 2016 Grand Blue Mile in a time of 4:37.52
©Jim Kirby 2016

Registration for two of the premier road races in central Iowa is now open with a unique twist for runners competing in both the Wellmark Grand Blue Mile and the Drake Road Races. The opening of registration marks exactly 10 weeks until professional, competitive and recreational runners take to the streets of the Des Moines for the Grand Blue Mile April, 25.

Courtesy Drake Relays, for registration and other details Click Here! Feature photo: Chad Noelle leads the pack in the 2016 Grand Blue Mile. His winning time was 4:12.11 ©Jim Kirby 2016

Athletes competing in both events will also receive the first ‘Bulldog Double’ finisher medals to commemorate their accomplishment of finishing both the Grand Blue Mile and either the Drake Relays 5k or Half Marathon four days later. Those that complete the Grand Blue Mile and 5k will receive the ‘Spike’ Bulldog Double medal and those running the Grand Blue Mile and Half Marathon will earn the ‘Griff’ Bulldog Double medal.

All Drake Road Races participants receive a long sleeve technical shirt and finisher medal, while the Grand Blue Mile participants receive a short sleeve technical shirt. Registration for the Drake Road Races also includes one paid admission to the Thursday, April 27, Distance Carnival inside Drake Stadium and a discount ticket rate of $17 to Hy-Vee Night at the Drake Relays Friday, April 28.

The current early bird registration rate is available until March 6 is $15 for the Grand Blue Mile, $25 for the Drake Road Races 5k and $40 for the Drake Road Races Half Marathon.