Jeff Hartwig, Bubba Sparks  and Gary Hunter

Memories From the Drake Relays: Jeff Hartwig

Jeff Hartwig 3Jeff Hartwig is a symbol of all that is good about the Drake Relays.    Hartwig is a 2 time Olympian, a 6 time US champion, the IN American record holder in the Pole Vault at 19’  8 ¼” and an 8 time Drake Relays champ, including 7 in arrow from 1995-2001.  Hartwig’s winning effort of 19’  ¾ from 2007 still stands as both the Relays and Drake Stadium record. (Sam Kendricks jumped 19-1 in 2015, but the competition was held indoors that year).

Feature photo: Jeff Hartwig, Bubba Sparks and Gary Hunter 

Every year in late April hundreds of the best track and field athletes in Iowa gather on the blue oval of Drake Stadium for the annual Drake Relays.  This event not only is a culmination of the best that Iowa has to offer in high school track but many of the world’s greatest track and field athletes have competed in this iconic event.  For me Drake holds a special place in my heart with many great memories.  Drake was always the start of my outdoor season and it was the anticipation of competing in front of the great crowds at Drake that provided much motivation between the indoor season and the time I would arrive in Des Moines.  Come rain or shine I always knew the amazing crowd would show up to watch the athletes perform.

As I have moved beyond my competitive years, I am now privileged to still have the opportunity to come to Des Moines each year as coordinator of the pole vault events at the Relays.  We have seen, Olympic medalists, World Record Holders, American Record Holders and vaulters of many other great accomplishments compete at Drake.  Each year the Drake Relays continues to be a world class event with many of the sport’s greatest performers.

Jeff Hartwig 1I am envious of the many young athletes who attend and compete at the relays.  They have a unique opportunity that I never had as a kid growing up to see some of the sports great stars.  As a high school event, the Drake Relays provides a chance for Iowa’s best athletes to test themselves against competition from all classes.  This event provides the example of what track and field has to offer across all levels and its many years of success is a testament to all the great workers, volunteers, officials and athletes who make it happen.  The Drake Relays is an event that many other meets only aspire to live up to.