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.
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.
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.