Emmitt Wheatley-Adair Casey-Simpson
©Jim Kirby 2017

Next Level Iowa Podcast For February 21, 2017: Emmitt Wheatley, Dave Cleveland and Joe Dunham

Emmitt Wheatley-Adair Casey-Simpson ©Jim Kirby 2017

Emmitt Wheatley-Adair Casey-Simpson
©Jim Kirby 2017

On this week’s edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk about all of last week’s meets and we talk with Adair Casey graduate, now a Simpson Storm Sensation, Emmitt Wheatley.  We also talk with coaches Dave Cleveland of Simpson and Joe Dunham of Central.

All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast!

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.

mary young blake bolden-1

Next Level Iowa Podcast For February 14, 2017: Mary Young of Drake and Drake Relays Director Blake Boldon

mary young blake bolden-1On this week’s edition of The Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk with Mary Young-Urbandale-Drake after her personal best in the indoor 60m hurdles at this past weekend’s ISU Classic and we catch up with the new Director of the Drake Relays, Blake Boldon.  Blake talks about the run up to this year’s Drake Relays and all the work that goes into it.

All this and more on this week’s Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Chris Dejoode-Hoover-GVU and Kennedy King-Assumption-GVU
©Doug Wells 2017

Next Level Iowa Podcast For February 8, 2017: Grand View’s Kennedy King and Chris Dejoode

Chris Dejoode-Hoover-GVU and Kennedy King-Assumption-GVU ©Doug Wells 2017

Chris Dejoode-Hoover-GVU and Kennedy King-Assumption-GVU
©Doug Wells 2017

On this week’s edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk about last week’s big indoor meets and look ahead to some of the other big meets approaching the hight of the indoor season.  We also talk with Grand View Viking athletes, Kennedy King-Assumption and Chris Dejoode-Hoover.  All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Val Veiock, Katie Maschmann and Dylan Kalinay

Next Level Iowa Podcast For January 31, 2017: Interviews, Results and More!

Val Veiock, Katie Maschmann and Dylan Kalinay

Val Veiock, Katie Maschmann and Dylan Kalinay

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we cover all of the big meets from last week.  We also talk with Katie Maschmann-Montezuma-UNI along with Dylan Kalinay-S. Tama-Simpson about their seasons so far.  We also talk with Val Veiock-WDM Valley-Grand View about her transition from All-American athlete to now coaching.

All this and more on this week’s Next Level Iowa Podcast!


Avery Meyers-W. Liberty-Iowa
©Jim Kirby

Next Level Iowa Podcast For January 24, 2017: Avery Meyers

Avery Meyers-W. Liberty-Iowa ©Jim Kirby

Avery Meyers-W. Liberty-Iowa
©Jim Kirby

On this week’s edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk with Avery Meyers a state champion from W. Liberty and now one of the best throwers for the Hawkeyes of the University of Iowa.  We talk with Avery about his most recent victory at the Larry Wieczorek Invite last weekend in Iowa City.

We also chat with Jasmine Staebler a graduate of Clayton Ridge and now a sophomore at Iowa State.  We talk with Jasmine about her thrilling victory in the 600m last weekend.

If all that weren’t enough…we talk with Iowa alum, Big Ten Champion, World Record holder Erik Sowinski just after his victory in the 600m in Iowa City last weekend.

All this and more on this week’s Next Level Iowa podcast!

Oksana Covey-DM Christian- S Dakota St
©Jim Kirby

“Oksana Runs”: A Running Reflection by Oksana Covey

Oksana Covey-DM Christian- S Dakota St ©Jim Kirby

Oksana Covey-DM Christian- S Dakota St
©Jim Kirby

I got to know  Oksana Covey during her high school summers while she attended Des Moines Christian.  She would join us at the Dowling practices and I quickly found out about her wonderful story and wonderful heart.  Her experience in running is an example of what running track and cross country can offer someone, how it can help someone, how it can heal someone.

Recently, I asked Oksana to reflect back on her running career as a State Champion from Des Moines Christian and now competing for the Jack Rabbits of South Dakota State. In the same courageous way in which Oksana runs, she tells her story.  

Here is what we hope is only the first edition of…

“Oksana Runs.”

My running career really started all because of my 6th grade P.E. teacher Ms. Butler who would put together a track and field day every year. My parents decided to volunteer my 6th grade year and after seeing me run they decided that I would would run in middle school.

I was very much against it, but when track season came along I ended up running. I found out that I was actually pretty good at running, and that I really did enjoy it. After my 8th grade year I decided I wanted to take running seriously so I asked my dad to join a summer club.

I joined Iowa Core Elite who was coached my Kim Carson. Through this team I was able to train with some of the best sprinters in the state like Mary Young, Jessica Campbell, Gabi Gaines, Ashlee Downs, and so many others. Training and competing with these girls gave me a little bit of confidence moving into my freshman year of track and filed.

My freshman year brought a lot of other struggles that I didn’t really see coming. I ended up suffering from PTSD from my early life in Russia, and that really took a toll on me emotionally and physically. I was too scared to sleep because of nightmares, but I was still training with Kim trying to get better for my freshman year.

I was having a hard time focusing in school because I was so tired from training, and not sleeping much. I eventually talked to my coach, and she helped me to get some help, and started working though my past.

When track season came I was in a much better place, and trained with a great group of girls. I was lucky enough to have competed in Drake relays that year in the 4×100 and 4×400. Our 4×400 team ended up placing third overall as the only 2A school to make finals.

Track was my outlet that year, and out team kept getting better and better. We placed 3rd as a team at the State meet. We won the 4×400, and the distance med.

Up to this point the farthest I ever ran was 400m. I swore that I would never run anything further than that. Somehow my dad ended up convincing me that I should go out for cross country since we were just now starting up a team. I went in thinking well I’m never running more than a 4K. My coach had other plans for me which of course was a good thing.

Our team that year made state cross country which was crazy I was only a sprinter. Coach Wilson had us meet with some of the Dowling girls who had ran at state, and gave us some tips on what it was going to be like. Luckily one of those girls was Dowling’s very own Karissa Schweizer who is now a NCAA D1 cross country Champion. They told us about the course, and what’s the best way to attack the course.

After that is when I decided I really wanted to run in college. At the end of sophomore year, I had multiple stress fractures in my shins due to always running on concrete in the parking lot because our school didn’t have a track. This made junior year a lot harder because I was scared of running and getting injured again. Luckily I had an amazing coach come into my life who understood my fears, and knew where I wanted to go with my running. Coach Dale Vander Wilt helped me to trust in my running, and even more importantly to trust in my training. He spent that summer meeting me on the Urbandale track  learning pace work, and how to be relaxed.

The last lesson I learned that summer was attitude was 90% of  running. If you say you can’t do it then you won’t be able to do it. All of that work I did with him carried through my senior year of  cross country helping me to place 12th at state cross country.

Following that season I was very excited to get back to work on the 800m race. I knew that my only chance to getting back to Drake Relays was to qualify in the 800m.

Starting in January Vander Wilt guided me to staying healthy , and running enough miles to stay in shape. All of that work paid off with a third place finish at Drake in the 800 dropping my time by 3 seconds of my qualifying time.

This was just the begging. State was the big one. I was blessed with some great weather and some awesome girls to run against, and finally won the 400m state title, and then winning the distance med out of the first heat, following that winning the 800m dropping 3 more seconds off of Drake Relays time.

I have recently talked to some of my team mates and talked a lot about college running. In high school it was a lot easier to be a state champ on the team. In high school, running isn’t that popular so you are usually on your own as a runner. Your training is all up to you, and taking a month off of running was okay. In college it is a lot different. You can’t take a month off. You can’t take 2 days off. Everyone on your team has been a state champ. You have to love running to really stick with it in college.  Even if you are injured there is always something else you can do to train. Your legs are constantly hurting because you run a crazy amount of miles. I personally don’t run as much as some of my other team mates, but it’s part of knowing your body. In high school after a hard workout coaches would say take an easy day and run a mile. In college it’s your responsibility to reach you mileage every week. You have to be committed to going and running 5 miles when your legs hurt and you don’t want to do anything. Your off days are made up off cross training. You do all this because your entire team is wanting to win that conference title. In high school you might have spent max 2-3 hours on running related activities.

In college it’s a full time job. You have to go in make sure you rolled out. Take care of any aches and pains before practice. Following that you have warmups and practice. Then you might have to lift, and cool down and ice and roll out again. It a total of 5-6 hours dedicated to running. When you aren’t running you are most likely busy studying! In college your team is everything. They are usually the people you go to for help. They are there to support you in everything.

Chaley Rath-Treynor-UNI
©Mike Byrnes

Next Level Iowa Podcast For January 17, 2017

Rebekah Topham-Griswold-Wichita St ©Mike Brynne

Rebekah Topham-Griswold-Wichita St
©Mike Brynne

On this week’s edition of The Next Level Iowa Podcast, Mike an I talk about last week’s meets and then look ahead and muse about the indoor season yet to come.  All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast.

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Mike Byrnes

“The Nexties!” Next Level Iowa’s 2016 Bests! Our Pros!

© Michael Scott 2016, www.miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

© Michael Scott 2016, www.miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

With the 2016 Nexties complete and posted, it is time to take a look at some of the Iowa Track and Field professionals.  These athletes need to have been born in Iowa or are graduates of an Iowa high school.  I know we had many Iowa college grads who did big things in 2016 but those stats will need to wait for another day.

Feature Photo:Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Mike Byrnes

In NO particular order:

Lindsay Lettow, DM Christian HS graduate-USATF Indoor Championships: 6th, Pentathlon.  US Olympic Trials: 10th, Heptathlon.  Thorpe Cup, USA vs Germany, Heptathlon-2nd individually, 1st team.

Shelby Houlihan, SC East HS graduate-USATF Indoor Championships: 5th, 3K.  US Olympic Trials: 2nd, 5K.  Olympic Games: 11th, 5K.

AG Kruger, Sheldon HS graduate-USATF Indoor Championships: 2nd, Weight Throw.  US Olympic Trials: 4th, Hammer Throw.

Jenny Simpson, born in Webster City, also lived in Ames-Drake Relays: 1st 1500M.  US Olympic Trials: 1st, 1500M.  Olympic Games: 3rd, 1500M.

Alex Gochenour, Logan Magnolia HS graduate– US Olympic Trials: 13th, Heptathlon.  Thorpe Cup, USA vs Germany, Heptathlon- 4th individually, 1st team.

Alexina Wilson, Lisbon HS graduate– Drake Relays: 1st, Steeplechase.  US Olympic Trials: 18th Steeplechase.

Chase Madison, Newton HS graduate- Drake Relays: 3rd, Discus.  US Olympic Trials: 22nd, Discus.

Biya Simbassa, SC North graduate- US Olympic Trials: 18th, 5K.

Kurtis Brondyke, Clinton HS graduate– Texas Greatest Athlete: 1st, Decathlon.  US Olympic Trials: 11th, Decathlon.  Thorpe Cup, USA vs Germany, Decathlon- 4th individually, 1st team.

Who did we MISS?  Let us know.  Remember ONLY born in Iowa and/or Iowa HS grads on this list.

Track and Field events only.