Drake Relays News
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 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.
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.