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 www.thegazette.com 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
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.

4-25-17

Next Level Iowa Podcast For April 25, 2017: Drake Relays Week!

4-25-17On this week’s edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast we get hyped up for the greatest weekend of the year, THE DRAKE RELAYS! We also congratulate this weeks performers of the week!  This week’s  winners are the All-Iowan UNI 4×4 of Jasmine Blue-CR Jeff, Maddie Blue Hudson,Lindsey Kite- Jesup and Maddie Irmen-Dav Assumption, champions at the Musco Invite last weekend and also, C.J. May-Applington Parkersburg-UNI for his outstanding, maiden steeplechase at the same meet.

All this and more, on the Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Steve Roth-Washington High School

Memories From the Drake Relays: Steve Roth

Steve Roth-Washington HS ©Special to Next Level Iowa

Steve Roth-Washington HS
©Special to Next Level Iowa

Steve Roth is a state championship winning coach at Washington High School and is entering his 41st year as head coach of the Demons.  Roth is a very active Track and Field official working many collegiate meets across Iowa and currently holds the office of President of the Iowa Association of Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches.

I have been attending the Drake Relays for 45 years and it just gets better and better every year.  I never got to participate as an athlete.  I have been coaching track and field for the Washington Demons for 41 years and in those years, there have only been two that we did not qualify an event for the Drake Relays.

I can remember sitting on the back stretch with hundreds of college and high school athletes watching Herschel Walker come around the 1st turn looking like his body was going to explode.  He was so big and fast.  Eating 25 cent hamburger with top notch college coaches listening to their stories and trying to pick up some little bit of knowledge that would make me a better coach.

At Washington, we have 3 parts to our season.  First is getting as many kids to the Drake Relays as possible.  I think it’s very important to run against the best athletes in the state at mid- season.  Drake is an all-star show case with the best against the best.  No matter how they do they will be prepared to get back to the Blue Oval for the state meet.  We have had some outstanding athletes compete at the Drake Relays and to win an event, I believe, ranks as one of the highest achievements you can get in Iowa track and field. Why?  Because it’s all 4 classes competing against each other.  Yes, I do put a lot of emphasis on the Drake Relays and it has made my athletes better and more confident as we move on to the conference meet and then to the state qualifying meet.

Lastly, I have also officiated the last 17 years at the Drake Relays.  The officials take pride in making it a great event.  I have learned so much on both sides of the Drake Relays, coaching and officiating.

Paul Morrison
©Drake Athletics

Memories From the Drake Relays: Paul Morrison

Paul Morrison ©Drake Athletics

Paul Morrison
©Drake Athletics

Paul Morrison graduated from Drake with a degree in journalism in 1939 and briefly returned to his hometown of Cedar Rapids to work for the The Gazette.

Upon his return from World War II he resumed his position with The Gazette before being hired as the first full-time director of the Drake News Bureau on Dec. 15, 1945. He later would serve as the athletics business manager before beginning a lengthy run as sports information director.

Morrison retired from his full-time position with Drake in 1986, and has continued to serve the university by volunteering his time in the athletic department as historian and consultant.

Morrison, commonly referred to as “Mr. Drake” was inducted into the 2014 Des Moines Register Iowa Sports Hall of Fame

Morrison, 99, will be attending his 80th Drake Relays this year.

“The Drake Relays is Drake’s window to the world. Barnum and Bailey use to say their circus was the greatest show on earth but they wrong because the Drake Relays is the greatest show on earth.

“I attended my first Drake Relays in 1934 to watch my high school team – Cedar Rapids Washington – compete. I can remember watching Jim LuValle (eventual 1935 NCAA 440 yd. champ) anchor UCLA to the first of two straight mile relay titles at the Drake Relays. We didn’t get UCLA to attend the Drake Relays often so that was unusual in itself.

“I didn’t know at the time that I would eventually be attending Drake as a student. I watched UCLA win the mile relay again as a freshman at Drake in 1935, sitting on the east side of the stadium. It was a really hot Saturday and I remember my lips got sunburned.

“Back in 1961 sprinter Wilma Rudolph, who won three gold medals at the 1960 Rome Olympics, became the first woman ever to compete at the Drake Relays. She wandered through the stadium looking for a dressing room. At the time, the Relays did not have regularly scheduled events for female athletes. So, there was no women’s locker room.

“People can’t believe that now. When we developed women’s track at the Relays, it was the turning point.”

“I would rank the 1951 Drake Relays as my all-time favorite because that was the year five runners led Drake to three titles in the 440 yard, 880 yard and mile relays in a period of 95 minutes and Jim Lavery anchored them all.

“Jim Ford, Ray Eiland, Jack Kelly and Lavery set a Drake Relays record in the preliminaries of the 880-yard relay (1:25.5) on that Friday. Fans were excited for Saturday’s session since the Bulldogs were in the finals of the 440, 880 and mile relays.

“Ford, George Nichols (who ran for North High School), and Eiland gave Lavery a slim lead when he got the baton to anchor the 440 and he outran Iowa’s anchorman to the tape in 41.7, giving Drake its first ever victory in the 440-yard relay in Drake Relays history.

After setting a record in Friday’s prelims, Drake was favored to win the 880-yard relay final and didn’t disappoint with Lavery winning by five yards in 1:25.9 – the school’s first 880-yard relay win since 1913.

The final event of every Drake Relays is the John L. Griffith University mile relay. Oklahoma and Texas A&M were the favorites. Ford led off for Drake followed by Eiland and Kelly. They ran well but Oklahoma had a five-yard led over Lavery at the final exchange.

Lavery cut the deficit to nothing on the first curve, hugging Oklahoma’s Jerry Meander’s heels. The Sooner responded and clung to the lead into the final curve. Behind the roar of the crowd, Lavery turned it on, took the lead and powered over the finish line, nearly three yards ahead.

It was an unforgettable moment. Lavery joined his teammates in celebration. It was the first mile relay victory for Drake since the first Relays in 1910. The 3:15.0 time was third fastest in Relays history.

The crowd stood and saluted the five athletes who had given Drake its biggest day ever in its own relays.

Lavery would go on to compete for Canadian Olympic Team at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

Untitled-2222

The Next Level Iowa Podcast: Performers of the Week and Blake Boldon

Simpson's Men 4x4 and Danna Kelly Herrick-Boone Truman State  ©Storm Athletics  ©Michael Scott-2017 https./miscottrunningphotos.com

Simpson’s Men 4×4 and Danna Kelly Herrick-Boone Truman State
©Storm Athletics ©Michael Scott-2017 https./miscottrunningphotos.com

On this edition of the Next Level Iowa Podcast Mike and I crown Danna Kelly Herrick-Boone-Truman State and the Simpson’s Men 4×4 as the Next Level Iowa Performers of the Week!  Danna for her 12th place finish Boston Marathon finish and The Simpson Men for their nation leading 4×4 performance at the Jim Duncan Meet.

We also talk with Drake Relay’s Director Blake Boldon about the upcoming Drake Relays.  All this and more on the Next Level Iowa Podcast!

Coach Ira Dunsworth and wife Dolly

Memories From the Drake Relays: Coach Ira Dunsworth

A young Coach Ira Dunsworth

A young Coach Ira Dunsworth

Ira Dunsworth was an All-State 400-800 runner at Davenport High School who then went to be an All Big 10 performer and NCAA qualifier at the University of Iowa.  After graduating from Iowa, Dunsworth went back to the Quad Cities to teach and coach track at Davenport Central.  At Central, Dunsworth had a Hall of Fame career and developed and coached track talent as well anyone before or since.  His Blue Devil teams won 7 state team titles and were runners-up 7 times.  He coached 31 state individual and 22 relay state champions.  His Blue Devil athletes won a total of 35 Drake Relays titles and were runners-up 20 times.  He was on the Drake Relays high school jury of appeals from 1978-2003.  He was named the boys Referee in 2004, a position he still holds.  Dunsworth is a member of the IATC Hall of Fame and the Drake Relays Wall of Honor.

Feature photo: Coach Ira Dunsworth and wife Dolly

“In 1950, my sophomore year at Davenport High, we qualified to run the 2-mile relay at Drake by winning the State Indoor meet.   Our team shared a bus with Clinton, making the trip to Des Moines and staying overnight in the old Brown Hotel on Keosauqua Avenue.  We awoke that Friday morning to 3-4” of snow!  By the time we ran in the early afternoon the track was a quagmire.  I never ate so many cinders in my life and we didn’t place, Dunsworth recalled.”

“In my junior year, 1951, I anchored both the mile relay and 2-mile relay to runner-up finishes at Drake.  It was quite a feeling to get my first Drake Relays medals.  In 1952, my senior year, I anchored both relays to victories and along with them, the thrill of winning 2 Drake Relays gold medals, Dunsworth added.”

Upon graduating from Davenport High, Ira enrolled at the University of Iowa.  His sophomore year, 1954, the Hawkeyes got beat at the wire in the mile relay at the Kansas Relays.  They were anxious to be running at the Drake Relays the next weekend, where they would finish 3rd and Dunsworth would receive his first Drake Relays medal as a collegiate.

During, 1956, his senior season at Iowa, Des Moines had a torrential rainstorm.  That was the year that Bobby Morrow, who would win 3 gold medals in the 1956 Olympics, and Dave Sime, the 1960 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 went at it.  Sime, of Duke, would edge out Morrow, Abilene Christian, running 9.4, in route to a new Drake Relays 100-yard dash record.

Dunsworth ran on Iowa’s Distance Medley that year, with future Hawkeye head coach Ted Wheeler on the anchor.   Iowa would win and Dunsworth would receive his first Drake Relays watch.  Wheeler made the US Olympic team in the 1500 meters that year along with teammate Deacon Jones who represented the USA in the Steeplechase.

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-ASU
©Mike Mahon

Drake Relays: Wow! What a Men’s and Women’s 1500m Field Set For the Relays!

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado
©Jim Kirby

Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays, announced the addition of 18 more Olympians to the 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee lineup during a press conference Wednesday, April 12.

Wednesday’s announcement brings the total up to 51 Olympians slated to compete inside Drake Stadium April 26-29 with more fields still scheduled to be revealed.

Courtesy Drake Relays, click here!  Feature photo: Shelby Houlihan-SC East-ASU ©Mike Mahon

Boldon unveiled the field for the men’s 400-meter hurdles including four-time World Champion, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time Drake Relays champion Bershawn Jackson as well as the men’s and women’s 1,500 meters. The women’s 1,500 meters is headlined by seven Olympians including Drake Relays fan-favorites in Olympians Jenny Simpson and Shelby Houlihan. Simpson returns to Drake Stadium as the reigning Olympic bronze medalist in the event while Houlihan is one of the most decorated athletes in the history of the Drake Relays having won seven titles while competing at Sioux City East High School.

The Relays Director also announced the addition of another world-class invitational event to the schedule with the women’s high jump featuring 2012 Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett and 2016 Olympic finalist Alyx Treasure of Canada. Reigning NCAA Champion Kimberly Williamson and 2017 U.S. Champion in the indoor pentathlon, Erica Bougard, are also in the high jump field.

Bershawn Jackson joined Wednesday’s announcement via video conference to also announce his retirement from competitive track and field and that the 2017 Drake Relays will be his last. The Drake Relays legend owns the Drake Stadium record in the 400-meter hurdles at 47.32, just shy of his personal best of 47.30, the 11th fastest time ever by an American in the event. He will be joined by four other Olympians in the event including Jamaican Olympic finalist Annsert Whyte, who finished fifth at the Rio Olympic games. Michael Tinsley, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, also returns to Drake Stadium where he has won two Drake Relays titles. Another Drake Relays regular, Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, makes his fifth Drake Relays appearance as a three-time Olympian and two-time World Champion silver medalist. Two-time Olympian Jehue Gordon is also in the star-studded field to make Jackson’s final lap around the Blue Oval an event not to be missed.

Jenny Simpson-Colorado-Professional Athlete ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Colorado-Professional Athlete
©Jim Kirby

Boldon also announced one of the strongest women’s 1,500-meter fields to ever race at the Blue Oval. The field includes seven Olympians with reigning bronze medalist and 2016 Drake Relays champion Jenny Simpson leading the pack. Simpson won’t have an easy race to her fourth Drake Relays title though with Houlihan and Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes on her heels. Sifuentes is a two-time Olympic semifinalist in the event while Houlihan was the fastest American in the 5,000 meters at last summer’s Olympics. Brenda Martinez, a 2016 Olympic finalist in the 1,500 meters will be joined by Kate Grace, who finished eighth in the 800 meters at the Rio Olympics and was the top-ranked American at that distance last season. Completing the field is Charlene Lipsey who recently ran the second-fastest indoor 800 meters by an American ever as well as winning the USATF indoor title in the 1,000 meters. American junior record holder Alexa Efraimson is scheduled to make her Drake Relays debut in the event also as one of the top American junior competitors.

The men’s 1,500 meters includes a trio of Olympians led by Clayton Murphy, the 2016 Drake Relays champion and Olympic bronze medalist in the 800 meters. Veteran Leo Manzano also returns to the Blue Oval. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist in the event owns the eighth fastest time ever by an American in the 1,500 meters and was a Drake Relays champion in the mile in 2015.

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Bowerman track Club ©Michael Scott http://miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Bowerman track Club
©Michael Scott http://miscottrunningphoto.shutterfly.com

Those runners and entire field will have one of the Drake Relays’ oldest records in their sites as they try to shatter Steve Scott’s Drake Stadium and Drake Relays record of 3:28.27 set in 1984.

They will be joined by a bevy of up-and-coming runners including Chad Noelle, who made his professional debut at the 2016 Drake Relays and was the Grand Blue Mile Champion and Johnny Gregorek who finished sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Iowa State product and 2016 Olympic steeplechase finalist Hillary Bor returns to the Blue Oval as well to aim for the historic record.

The 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee begin April 26 inside Drake Stadium. Tickets are on sale for all sessions of the Drake Relays by visiting the Drake Athletic Ticket Office, calling 515-271-3647 or using DrakeTix.com.