The Drake Relays Presented By Hy-Vee has brought some of the finest athletes in the world to Des Moines for 105 years and 2015 will be no different as Drake Relays director Brian Brown has declared ‘The Sky Is The Limit’ for this season’s competition in Des Moines.
Brown announced the first round of elite athletes and events on Tuesday, Feb. 24, plus schedule and venue changes for events outside of Drake Stadium.
Ryan Grant, Director, Sports Marketing and Events at Hy-Vee, was also on hand to discuss Hy-Vee’s continued relationship as the presenting sponsor of the Drake Relays and the Hy-Vee Road Races at the Drake Relays. Hy-Vee’s partnership with the Drake Relays is a natural extension of its long-standing commitment to health and wellness in our local communities.
The Hy-Vee Road Races at the Drake Relays will be held on Sunday, April 26th. The Hy-Vee Road Races present an opportunity for people of all skill levels to be actively involved in the Drake Relays. Early bird registration has been extended to March 14th for the 5k run/walk, the 10k run and the half marathon. Information and registration for the Hy-Vee Road Races can be found at www.Hy-VeeRoadRaces.com
Relays week will kick off a day earlier this spring with the annual Beautiful Bulldog contest on Sunday, April 19, in the Knapp Center. The internationally adored event begins a full week of Relays festivities in Des Moines that continues on Tuesday, April 21, with the Grand Blue Mile on the streets of downtown Des Moines. Registration for the popular 1-mile road race opens to the public on Feb. 26.
The most notable physical change to Relays week comes on Wednesday, April 22, as the pole vault leaves the familiar confines of Jordan Creek Town Centre for the heart of downtown Des Moines. This year’s pole vault exhibition will take place on Court Avenue as some of the world’s top vaulters take to the streets and airspace of the popular entertainment district.
Scheduled to compete in the men’s event is Olympic gold medalist, world record holder and defending Relays stadium champion Renaud Lavillenie of France. The women’s field features world record holder and No. 3 in the world Jenn Suhr of the U.S. and the world’s No. 2 vaulter and 2013 and 2014 Relays champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba.
Those events early in the week will serve as appetizers for the incredible fields lined up to compete inside Drake Stadium April 23-25. Friday night is again ‘Hy-Vee Night at the Relays’ with some of the top athletes in the history of track and field set to preview this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China.
A new event will also be added to the Friday night’s schedule with the women’s 800 meters. Eight of the top 10 American 800-meter runners are poised to line up at Drake Stadium including world No. 2 Ajee Wilson and No. 3 Brenda Martinez.
In its tradition of welcoming the world’s finest athletes to the Blue Oval, the Relays will stage a 200-meter paralympic race on Friday, April 24 with T44 classification athletes, including world record holder Richard Browne and former world record holder Jarryd Wallace. The T44 classification is for athletes that run with the use of prosthetics. Browne won silver in the 2012 Paralympic Games in the 100 meters while Wallace took gold in the International Paralympic Committee’s 2013 World Championships.
Joining the field will be a T11 competitor in David Brown who is blind and runs with the aid of a guide runner. Brown owns the T11 world records in both the 100 and 200 meters.
Last year’s men’s 400 meters was one for the ages with American LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James of Grenada writing another chapter in their storied rivalry with Merritt narrowly edging James, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist. The pair will reprise that role this year in a 400-meter field that features seven of the top 10 ranked athletes in the world with Merritt and James being followed by the Nos. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 400-meter runners.
The men’s 110-meter hurdle field is similarly exceptional with seven of the top 10 in the world confirmed to step into the blocks. World No. 1 Pascal Martinot-Lagarde of France will be joined by the world’s Nos. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 hurdlers, in addition to world record holder Aries Merritt. World No. 3 Hansle Parchment will try to defend his 2014 Relays title against the star-studded field.
Many of those hurdlers will also participate in the always thrilling shuttle hurdle relay with three teams of four competing in the back-and-forth race along the Blue Oval straightaway. Currently, two teams of Americans – David Oliver, Aries Merritt, Ashton Eaton, Alec Harris and Ronnie Ash, Ryan Wilson, Spencer Adams, Jason Richardson – will line up against a team of Jamaicans in Parchment and Andrew Riley and French brothers Pascal and Thomas Martinot-Lagarde.
The men’s high jump also returns to Hy-Vee Night at the Relays in an encore of last year’s thrilling competition that saw Derek Drouin set a Drake Relays and Canadian national record by clearing 7-10.5. Challenging Drouin’s attempts at repeating as Relays champion is a field that has five of the top 10 Americans slated to jump.
As the elite professional fields continue to come together, Brown has also bolstered the collegiate competition with commitments from Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech set to join the traditional lineup of collegiate programs inside Drake Stadium. Those teams will join the likes of Arkansas, Baylor, Nebraska, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin in competing for the Hy-Vee Cup, awarded to the top scoring team in the collegiate relay events. Baylor won the women’s Hy-Vee Cup last season while Arkansas and Illinois shared the men’s title.