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.