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.
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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