Drake Relays News

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 2016

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.

Lorraine Ugen-Olympian
©Jim Kirby 2016

Olympic Jumpers Coming Back to Drake

Lorraine Ugen-Olympian ©Jim Kirby 2016

Lorraine Ugen-Olympian
©Jim Kirby 2016

Brittney Reese, a three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist, is set to headline a field of some of the world’s top long jumpers for the 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee, the Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays, Blake Boldon, announced Thursday, April 6.

Courtesy Drake Relays, click here! Feature photo: Lorraine Ugen-Olympian ©Jim Kirby 2016

Reese is one of six Olympians Boldon has lined up to compete in the Rio Olympic Games Rematch long jump including three Olympic finalists. Reese returns to Drake Stadium after winning the silver medal in the event at the 2016 Olympics. In 2012 she was the Olympic gold medalist and is a six-time world champion. Her personal best of 23-11.75 (7.31m) is the ninth best all-time in the event and tied for the second-longest mark by an American. Reese is also the American record holder in the indoor long jump. Last season, she finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world for the 10th time in her career after beginning her outdoor season with a second-place finish at the 2016 Drake Relays.

Last year’s Drake Relays champion, Lorraine Ugen of Great Britain, returns in defense of her title after advancing to the Olympic finals last summer and more recently taking silver at the 2017 European Indoor Championships. Ese Brume, another international competitor from Nigeria, makes her Drake Stadium debut after finishing fifth at the 2016 Olympics. A two-time African Champion in the event, Brume began her career a five-time African Junior Champion.

Yvonne Trevino is another Drake Relays newcomer that brings a resume of tremendous international success to Drake Stadium. The Mexican national record holder in the event at 21-11.75 (6.70m), she bettered her own record multiple times during the 2016 season en route to an appearance at the 2016 Olympics to become the first Mexican woman to compete in the event on the Olympic stage in 48 years.

Canadian national record holder Christabel Nettey joins the field after a 2016 Olympic appearance and a 2016 Pan-Am Games gold medal. She also finished fourth at the 2015 World Championship.

American multi-event athlete Sharon Day-Monroe will return to Drake Stadium as the American record holder in the indoor pentathlon and a 2008 Olympian in the high jump and a 2012 Olympian in the heptathlon. Day-Monroe has been a part of four World Championship teams.

Completing the veteran field is American Jesse Gaines. Gaines recently finished second at the U.S. Indoor Championships and own a personal best of 21-6 (6.55m).

The addition of six Olympians for the women’s long jump Rio Olympic Rematch, brings the total number of Olympians set to compete at the Blue Oval up to 30 with seven more elite event fields to be announced.

The Rio Olympics Rematch women’s long jump is scheduled for 2:45 p.m. Saturday, April 29. Tickets for all sessions of the 2017 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee are available through the Drake Athletic Ticket Office in person, by calling 515-271-3647 or visiting DrakeTix.com.

Name Country PR Olympics 2016 Drake Relays Finish
Brittney Reese USA

  • PR 23-11.75 (7.31m)
  • Olympics:  2016 (Silver), 2012 (Gold), 2008
  • Drake Finish 2016: 2nd

Lorraine Ugen Great Britain

  • PR: 22-8.5 (6.92m)
  • Olympics: 2016
  • Drake Finish 2016 1st

Christabel Nettey Canada

  • PR: 22-11.25 (6.99m)
  • Olympics: 2016

Yvonne Trevino Mexico

  • PR: 21-11.75 (6.70m)
  • Olympics: 2016

Ese Brume Nigeria

  • PR: 22-5 (6.83m)
  • Olympics: 2016

Sharon Day-Monroe USA

  • PR: 20-2.25 (6.15m)
  • Olympics: 2012 (Heptathlon), 2008 (High Jump)

Jessie Gaines USA

  • PR: 21-6 (6.55m)