Drake state Meet

Next Level Iowa Podcast For January 9, 2018: Blake Boldon

Blake Boldon-Director of the Drake Relays ©Jin kirby

Blake Boldon-Director of the Drake Relays
©Jin kirby

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast, Director of the Drake Relays Blake Boldon gets us even more excited for the Drake Relays!  Blake talks about the changes to the Drake Relays Road Races and other exciting announcements for this years Relays!

Mike and I also get revved up for the coming week’s indoor track meets and we preview our 2017 NEXTIE AWARDS for 2017!  All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Casey Blake-Indianola

Next Level Podcast For January 2, 2018: Casey Blake

Casey Blake-Indianola ©Indianola Athletics

Casey Blake-Indianola
©Indianola Athletics

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we welcome Indianola High School graduate, All-Star 3rd Basemen, most notably from the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Dodgers, Casey Blake.  We talk with Casey about his state championship DMR race of 1990, and we talk baseball, sports and a whole lot more.

We also look ahead to the high school and collegiate indoor track seasons.  All this and more on the Next LevelIowa Podcast!

Feature photo: Casey Blake Los Angeles Dodgers ©LA Times 

Fitness Sports’ Next Level Iowa Preps Podcast For December 28, 2017

Fitness Sports 8800 Swanson Blvd Clive, IA www.fitnesssports.com

Fitness Sports Website, click here!

Welcome to our first edition of Fitness Sports’ Next Level Iowa Preps where we will be talking about running gear, shoes and a whole lot more with The Shoe Man himself, Steve Bobenhouse.

As the high school track season unfolds, Mike Jay and I will keep up to speed on all the news from our Iowa preps as their track season unfolds. So join us right here, every week at Fitness Sports’ Next Level Iowa Preps!


Mary Young-Urbandale-Drake 
©Jim Kirby 2017

Next Level Iowa Podcast For December 28, 2017: Mary Young Show #550

Mary Young-Urbandale-Drake ©Doug Wells

Mary Young-Urbandale-Drake
©Doug Wells

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk with Urbandale State Champion and Missouri Valley Champion Drake Bulldog, Mary Young.  Mary talks about her outdoor 100m hurdles championship and how that is invigorating her for her indoor and outdoor senior year.

Mike and I also close out 2017 by highlighting some of our favorite interviews and talk about the possible 2017 “Nextie Award” winners.  All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast.


From left, driver/pilot Nicole Voft, rookie Lake Kwaza, rookie Nicole Brungardt and driver/pilot Kristi Koplin. 
© USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

Lake Kwaza Chasing Olympic Dream by Mike Jay

Lake Kwaza-Iowa ©Darren Miller

Lake Kwaza-Iowa
©Darren Miller

What do you do if you are a school record holder, Big 10 champion and an All-American in track and field, still have that urge to compete after graduating from college but are uncertain about switching sports? Well, if you are 2016 University of Iowa graduate Lake Kwaza, you turn down an offer from one of the U.S. Bobsled coaches, and when he calls you back a year later you answer him with a resounding, ‘Yes!’

Courtesy Little Village Magazine, click here!   Feature photo: From left, driver/pilot Nicole Voft, rookie Lake Kwaza, rookie Nicole Brungardt and driver/pilot Kristi Koplin  © USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation

Right after the 2016 track and field Olympic trials, Kwaza said she received an email from Michael Dionne, one of the coaches with USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

“The email was an introduction of himself and a very brief description of bobsled. I emailed him back and the next thing you know I am on the phone getting the full scoop about what bobsled is and how I had the accolades to become a bobsled athlete,” she said. “I was very intrigued about the sport but I wasn’t ready to give up track and the other commitments that I made going into the 2017 school year, so I kindly declined the offer and told Coach Dionne to keep my contact information and maybe I’ll be more willing to try it the next year.”

One year later she received a call.

“I was very excited that he remembered after a year and contacted me. I thought if a coach or anyone can remember something like this a year later then I should give them a chance and see what they are talking about,” Kwaza said.

The 2016 Big 10 60-meter dash champion, and school record holder in both the 60 and as a member of the 400-meter relay, is doing her strength and conditioning training in Iowa City, with her Hawkeye coaches, but does bobsled training in Lake Placid, New York.

“Bobsled is a speed and power sport and so is sprinting,” Kwaza said. “Luckily, I was just that, a sprinter, which meant my training changed very little.”

She said she was lucky that her college coaches — sprints coach Clive Roberts and strength and conditioning coach and nutritionist Landon Evans — continued working with her.

“[They] were both excited and eager to continue to work with me as a post colligate,” she said. “Neither of them have a background in bobsled, but both did their own research about the sport and have been able to create a program that fits me as a bobsled athlete.”

She spend about three to four months in New York, where she can stay at the Olympic training center in Lake Placid and has access to the bobsled track on Mt. Van Hoevenberg. The rest of the time, the Sycamore, Illinois native is here in Iowa City training.

The 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be held for 17 days, Feb. 9-25, in PyeongChang, in Gangwon Province, South Korea. It’s the first time the Olympic games will be held in Korea since the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988, nearly 30 years ago. PyeongChang will be the stage for the opening and closing ceremonies and most snow sports. Alpine speed events will take place in Jeongseon, and all ice sports will be in the coastal city of Gangneung.

There are nine women currently on the U.S. National Team, three drivers/pilots and six brakemen/push athletes; they are currently competing on the World Cup circuit. Developing athletes, like Kwaza, are competing in the North American Cup and are also vying for the four to six spots on the U.S. team that will compete in South Korea, Feb. 20 and 21.

The maximum number of athletes who can qualify for the Olympics, in the bobsled, is six women and 18 men. The women have only two-man sleds whereas the men have two-man and four-man sleds, meaning more men can qualify. Each nation has the chance to qualify two women’s sleds and a few may qualify three. That will determine if a country takes four or six women. The qualifications are dependent on the world rankings in January, just one month before the Olympics begin.

Once it has been decided, by the rankings, if the U.S. will take two or three women’s teams, the final teams will be decided by the coaches, the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation committee and the pilots.

So far, Kwaza has been able to race in Calgary, Canada, where she and Kristi Koplin placed second and she and Nicole Vogt finished fourth. She has also spent time in Park City, Utah, attending driving school.

Her next race will be in January, in Lake Placid.

Kwaza has set up a Go Fund Me page, because U.S. bobsledding is self-funded unless athletes are on the U.S. national team or have sponsors. Kwaza pays for her own travel, meals and anything else that comes along. Follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook @lakekwaza.

Blake Boldon-Director of the Drake Relays
©Jim Kirby

Next Level Iowa Podcast For December 19,2017: Blake Boldon

Blake Boldon-Director of the Drake Relays ©Jin kirby

Blake Boldon-Director of the Drake Relays
©Jin kirby

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk with Drake Relays Director Blake Boldon who is preparing for the Relays.  We talk about all the things that make the Relays the best in the country and also the exciting possibilities for this coming year.  All this and more on this week’s Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Runners and the New York Road Runners (from left): NYRR’s Mary Wittenberg, Peter Gilmore, Hendrick Ramaala, NYRR’s Sam Grotewold, NYRR’s David Monti, Viktor Rothlin, Abdi Abdirahman, Nina Rillstone and Alan Culpepper

Next Level Iowa Podcast For December 13, 2017: Sam Grotewold Senior Manager For the NYRR

Sam Grotewold-Senior Manager of Professional Athletes at the New York Road Runners

Sam Grotewold-Senior Manager of Professional Athletes at the New York Road Runners

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk with Sam Grotewold, the Senior Manager of Professional Athletes for the New York Road Runners.  Sam is a leader in the sport at many levels, including is work with the NYRR at Races such as The New York Marathon and the 2016 Olympic Trials.  Sam is a regular contributor to Flotrack and Let’s Run websites as he is responsible for the handling of elite athletes such as Iowa’s own Jenny Simpson. Sam was born in Ames, Iowa and ran at Simpson College.

Feature photo: Runners and the New York Road Runners (from left): NYRR’s Mary Wittenberg, Peter Gilmore, Hendrick Ramaala, NYRR’s Sam Grotewold, NYRR’s David Monti, Viktor Rothlin, Abdi Abdirahman, Nina Rillstone and Alan Culpepper@sportsbusinessdailey.com

We also talk about the early indoor meets involving our Iowans as well as covering the results of the USATF Club Nationals held last week.  All this and more on this week’s Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Joey Woody & the Iowa Hawkeyes
©Darren Miller Hawkeyesports.com 2017

Next Level Iowa Podcast For December 5, 2017: Coach Joey Woody

Coach Joey Woody-Iowa ©Darren Miller

Coach Joey Woody-Iowa
©Darren Miller

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we talk about the emerging indoor track season, we remember Drake’s Paul Morrison and we talk with Iowa Hawkeye Head Track Coach Joey Woody.

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

Feature photo: Joey Woody & the Iowa Hawkeyes ©Darren Miller Hawkeyesports.com 2017
Paul Morrison
©Drake Athletics

Drake Legend Paul Morrison Passes Away

Paul Morrison ©Drake Athletics

Paul Morrison
©Drake Athletics

A sad day in Bulldog World today with the loss of Paul Morrison. I first met Paul in 1980 when I was the producer of The Chuck Shelton Coach’s Show. Drake was one of the most traveled football teams in the nation that year. Three times Drake traveled to Texas to play Lamar, W. Texas State and Texas Arlington, but also traveled and defeated Colorado in Boulder and also won at Long Beach State in Anaheim, CA. (late addition: I forgot to include a win at. New Mexico State. The Bulldogs were 7-4 in 1980, led by Rick Casio at QB) I would often room with Paul and we along with friend and booster, the Late Jack Buss, would joke about the wild times we had at the parties in our room. From then on, Paul and I would great each other with the salutation “Hi Roomie.”

Feature photo: Paul Morrison ©Drake Athletics

No one was a bigger advocate and supporter of Drake athletics. For me, it was a privilege and pleasure to be connected with such a great, fan, friend and example.

Thanks Roomie for all the memories, fun and most of all, all the awesome parties we imagined we had on the road. You’re a good man.

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God…”-Wisdom

Here are a couple of links to stories on recent death of Paul Morrison

  • Des Moines Register December 1st, 2017 by Daniel Finney  click here!
  • Des Moines Register December 1st, 2017 by Cody Goodwin, click here!
Visitation will be at Dunn’s Funeral Home, 2121 Grand Ave. Des Moines, Iowa 50311 this Tuesday between 4-7 pm.
Memorial service will be this Wednesday at 11 am at Drake Knapp Center.
There was a moment of silence before the Drake-Iowa State women’s basketball game Thursday night. His honorary Drake letterwinner’s jacket was placed on his customary seat on press row.
Phil Coppess-Oxford Junction
©Pioneer Press-www.twincities.com

Where Are They Now?: Phil Coppess

Phil Coppess-Oxford Junction ©NY Times

Phil Coppess-Oxford Junction
©NY Times

Phil Coppess

More often than not, when a track coach tells a young runner that he is “more fit for the marathon,” than a regular season track event, it is because the lad is a bit slow and the coach doesn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Feature photo: Twin Cities Pioneer Press, click here!

This was not the case when Coach Bill Kackley conveyed his opinion to a gangly, young distance runner by the name of Phil Coppess.

Coppess did not go out for track until his sophomore year in high school.   Despite the late start, he showed he had running and racing ability by winning 5 state titles, one coming in cross country and four in track, before graduating in 1972 from now defunct, Oxford Junction High School.   But, it was the talent he showed after reaching the age of 27 that shocked everyone; everyone but Phil Coppess.

Phil is a great story.    He has a storyline that is better than many movies about distance running that have ever hit the big screen.    He is a common ordinary factory worker now living in Clinton, Iowa who never gave up on his dream.

Coppess was the youngest of nine children from Oxford Junction in northeastern Iowa. As a high school runner, he was not especially fast but prevailed in distance runs, the longer the better, with remarkable endurance and sheer determination.

“Our family wasn’t rich,” he said. “If I went to college, it was going to have to be a full ride, and there were a lot of kids faster than me. I ran a couple track meets that summer after I graduated, in 1972, and that was about it. Said, guess I’m going to have to get a job.”

By 1974, Coppess was married and working the corn evaporator at the Archer Daniels Midland processing plant in Clinton. That year, he and his wife had their first child. There was no time for running, especially after a daughter was born in 1977 and another son in 1980.

But during a 1979 strike at ADM in Clinton, Coppess got a job at a nuclear plant in Cordova, Illinois, where he observed some of the office workers going for a run on their lunch hour.

Coppess thought, “I used to do that” and took up running again in 1980.  He trained hard while working in the factory and raising a family as a divorced father of three.  While training with the likes of Gregg Newell and Jim Ijams, his times dropped like a rock and the medals, trophies and records began to multiply.

In 1981 he won the Drake Relays Marathon, the Huntsville Alabama Marathon and the Chicago Marathon, in 2:16, beating two time Olympic Marathon medalist Frank Shorter along the way.

After Chicago, Shorter had this to say about Coppess:   “Phil may get mad at me for saying this, but he didn’t have a heck of a lot of talent, yet he ran nearly as fast as I did in the marathon.  Our PR’s are very close.  The reason is, he was willing to work, and that is what showed through in Phil”.

1985 was the magic year for the small town boy from northeast Iowa.  He ran over 40 races that year.  His times got better, at every distance, from the mile through the marathon.

Coppess had eventually designed a training regimen that dovetailed with his rotating shifts at ADM (a corn processing plant) in Clinton and his parenting responsibilities; he was awarded full custody of the children in a 1985 divorce. He ran 14 to 15 miles on work days, longer on his days off, carrying a palm-sized stopwatch to record each mile. “I didn’t think it was a good 20-miler unless I had gone under two hours,” he said. One day a week, he did a track workout, and on another, hills. Physical therapy consisted of weekly chiropractic adjustments.

He won the Lincoln Marathon, and a marathon in Auckland, New Zealand.  And 32 years later, Phil Coppess’ course records still stand.

In early October, 1985, he took a weekend off and flew to Minneapolis.  His parents made the five-and-a-half-hour drive with his three children.  Coppess was confident that he could break 2:11, at the Twin Cities Marathon , which he figured would be good enough for first place. As always, his strategy was simple: go out hard, a pace just under five minutes per mile, and keep it up for 26.2 miles. If others wanted to go with him, fine, and if they didn’t, that was fine, too.

On October 6, 1985, Phil, was on his way to setting the course record with a winning time of 2 hours 10 minutes and 5 seconds. The second-place finisher was three minutes behind.   Coppess’s time was the fastest by an American that year, and at the time, ranked him among the top 20 American marathoners ever, just ahead of Frank Shorter.  Track and Field News named him the US Marathoner of the year.  He was also selected American Road Runner of the Year by Road Runners Club of America.

Twin Cities timed the 30K and 20 mile splits in route.  Coppess’ 30K split was a world record time (stood for 20 years) and his 20 mile mark set a new American record (still stands).

Coppess is an Iowa road racing legend.  He became a fixture at the world renowned Bix 7, placing in the top 10 in 1981, 82, 83, 85 and 86.  He took fourth behind Rob DeCastella, Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter in 1982 and was third behind Mark Curp and Rodgers in 1986.  Six times he broke 35:00 at Bix.

Coppess says his best road race in Iowa was the 1985 Dam to Dam 20K in Des Moines where he set new PR’s for both the 10 mile and 20K.  Both 10K splits were under 30 minutes in route to his winning time of 59:23.

Some more of Phil Coppess’ Road PR’s:

10K-28:49, Mobile Alabama

7 Mile-33:29, Bix 7, Davenport, Iowa

10 Mile-47:23, Bobby Crim, Flint Michigan

20K-59:23, Dam to Dam, Des Moines, Iowa

Phil also holds the two fastest times for a marathon by a native Iowan: 2:10:05-Twin Cities and 2:11:34 in Auckland, New Zealand.

While he seemed unstoppable in races, by 1986 injuries did what competition couldn’t:  Slow him down.

Back problems came in 1987 and he was never the same after that, bringing his competitive running career to a halt in 1989.

Coppess quit at ADM in 1986 and now works as an Ultrasonic Inspector at Arconic (formerly Alcoa) in the Quad Cities.  He finished his BA, in Education, from Marycrest in Davenport, Iowa in 1990.

Phil got back into the road racing scene, albeit for a short time, when he reached “Masters Age Group” status .  He set the Iowa All Time Best masters mark for a road 8k when he ran 25:59 at the 5th Season 8K in Cedar Rapids, in 1995 at the age of 40.  His last race was in early 1997.

Phil Coppess was inducted into the Iowa Association of Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014.