Five-time Drake Relays champion Jenny Simpson returns to the Blue Oval to challenge the American outdoor 2-mile record as part of Hy-Vee Night at the Drake Relays, Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays, announced Tuesday, April 3. Boldon also unveiled world-class competitors in the pole vault and high jump inside Drake Stadium for what has the potential to be a historic night of track & field action.
Courtesy Drake Relays, click here! Feature photo: Jenny Simpson-Webster City-Colorado ©Jim Kirby
Simpson, the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee reigning 1,500-meter champion and Olympic bronze medalist, will challenge the American record of 9:20.25 in the two-mile race Friday, April 27, under the lights at Drake Stadium.
“I’m so excited to be returning to Iowa again this year to compete in my first outdoor race of 2018 at the Drake Relays,” Simpson said. “I’ve had so many special runs on the Blue Oval including collegiate and stadium records and this year records are on my mind again. I’ll be returning to the Drake Relays to challenge the outdoor 2-mile American Record. Runs like this are never easy or predictable but I’m excited to face the challenge in front of fans who have cheered me on to great runs in the past.”
Simpson will try to better the current record of 9:20.25 set by Shannon Rowbury in 2014.
Last year, Simpson won her fifth-straight race at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee with her 1,500-meter win as she held off rival Brenda Martinez. Martinez returns to the Relays to challenge Simpson again. Upstart Alexa Efraimson, who owns the American junior record in the 1,500 meters (4:03.39) and the national high school record in the 3,000 meters (9:00.16) joins the veteran laden field racing toward an American national record.
Another Olympic medalist and Drake Relays champion headlines the men’s pole vault field. Sam Kendricks was the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World Champion in the event he also won at 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. He is just one of 22 men in the history of the sport to clear six meters (19-8).
“I love to start the year off on home soil! Drake Stadium will bring out the best in all of us!” Kendricks said to announce his return to Des Moines.
Kendricks isn’t the only elite vaulter set to compete at Hy-Vee Night at the Drake Relays. Another member of the 6-meter club and the 2015 World Champion, Shawn Barber, will go jump for jump against Kendricks. Barber is the Canadian record holder in the event and the 2015 and 2016 Drake Relays champion. Scott Houston, the 2018 American indoor champion is also in the field.
The women’s high jump will feature another standout field headlined by Vashti Cunningham who has won four USA Championships at just 20 years old. Cunningham, the daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham, competed at the Drake Relays in 2016 as a high-school phenom and has since won a world indoor title and represented the USA in the 2016 Olympics. She owns a personal best of 6-6.25 (1.99m) in the event, an American junior record.
However, Cunningham won’t have an easy route to another Drake Relays title. The 2017 Drake Relays champion Levern Spencer returns to Des Moines. The Olympian own the St. Lucian national record in the event at 6-6 (1.98m). Another national record holder, Doreen Amata, will make her Drake Relays debut in 2018. The Nigerian record holder in the event, Amata is a two-time Olympian and served as Nigeria’s flag bearer for the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympics. Canadian Alyx Treasure is another Olympian set to push the field in what has the makings of another outstanding competition at Drake Stadium.
All-session, multi-session and single-session tickets are currently on sale to witness all three of these events at Drake Stadium, including the potential setting of an American record. Visit DrakeTix.com to secure tickets to what has the promise to be a historic night at Drake Stadium.