The 2018 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee will feature an elite men’s shot put competition for the first time since 2013, Blake Boldon, the Franklin P. Johnson Drake Relays Director announced Tuesday, Jan. 30. Boldon also revealed the first wave of University Division teams set to compete for the Hy-Vee Cup on the Blue Oval.
Courtesy Drake Relays, click here! Feature photo: Ryan Crouser-Texas, Ricky Robertson-Mississippi, Erik Olson-Drake©Jim Kirby 2018
Boldon’s announcement also marks the start of all-session ticket sales to the general public for the 109thinstallment of America’s Athletic Classic. To reserve all-session tickets, call the Drake Athletic Ticket Office at 515-271-3647 or visit DrakeTix.com/Relays
The men’s shot put returns to Drake Stadium with a field headlined by defending Olympic gold medalist and Olympic record holder Ryan Crouser. Crouser owns a personal best of 74-3.75 (22.65m) after setting the Olympic record at 73-10.5 (22.52m) to become the first American gold medalist in the event since 2004. The Oregon native who competed for the University of Texas enters this outdoor season with the world record in his sights and will return to Drake Stadium for the USA Championships in June.
Crouser will make his 2018 Des Moines debut in a different venue when he competes in a one-of-a-kind dunk competition Tuesday evening as part of Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee Night at the Drake vs. SIU men’s basketball game. During halftime of the contest, Crouser, who stands at 6-8 and weights more than 300 pounds, will compete against high jumper Ricky Robertson and Drake track & field student-athlete Erik Olson. Robertson is a 2016 Olympian who owns a personal best of 7-7.25 (2.32m) in the high jump and was a 10-time All-American at Mississippi. Drake standout Erik Olson, a pole vaulter, will join as the lone amateur in the field and test his mettle on the Knapp Center rims.
Olson is also one of the many collegiate athletes primed to compete at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee as Boldon announced the first list of university teams that promise to make the competition for the Hy-Vee Cup, awarded to the top scoring teams in relay events, another can’t-be-missed event.
More than 30 teams will be represented in the clash for the Hy-Vee Cup with five of those teams currently boasting a national ranking. In the men’s division, reigning Hy-Vee Cup champion No. 22 Iowa and No. 24 Ohio State will be in attendance along with programs such as Air Force, Illinois and Missouri, among others. The defending women’s Hy-Vee Cup Champion, No. 15 Ohio State aims to hold on to the Cup but will be challenged by No. 11 Minnesota and No. 22 Iowa State for the prestigious honor. Iowa’s men’s 4×400-meter relay team is ranked eighth in the nation with a time of 3:07.54 after helping the Hawkeyes claim the Hy-Vee Cup last year. That relay team features junior Mar’yea Harris. Harris’ 400-meter time of 46.50 is currently the 13th fastest in the nation this indoor season.
Ohio State boasts a pair of pole-vaulters tied at 13th in the nation with junior Coty Cobb and senior Cole Gorski both recording season bests of 17-6.5 (5.35m). The pair will challenge South Dakota sophomore Chris Nilsen. His season-best mark of 18-9.25 (5.72m) makes him the current NCAA leader. As a freshman, Nilsen competed in the invitational section of the pole vault and finished second in a field of professionals behind only 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World Champion Sam Kendricks.
Nilsen won’t be the only current NCAA leader potentially competing at the 2018 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. Illinois freshman Jon Davis’ mile time of 3:55.46 mile is currently tops in the NCAA as he became just the 498th American to break the 4-minute mile barrier last weekend. His teammate David Kendziera is tied for ninth in the nation in the 60-meter hurdles at 7.76 and tied for fastest among potential Relays athletes along with Iowa’s Chris Douglas.
In the women’s University division, there are a number of high ranking individual athletes including Relays’ favorite Karissa Schweizer of Missouri. She is slated to return to the Blue Oval and currently holds the NCAA lead in the mile at 4:27.54 and in the 5,000 meters at 15:17.31. Schweizer is a three-time NCAA Champion and four-time All-American. At the 2017 Drake Relays, she got elevated to the elite women’s 1,500 meters and finished eighth in a field that included 11 professional athletes and six Olympians including Jenny Simpson.
Relay teams from Purdue and Ohio State are sure to make certain the clash for the Hy-Vee Cup comes down to the final event as the Boilermakers will bring in the sixth-ranked 4×400-meter relay team in the nation. Ohio State’s 4×400-meter relay team is close behind, currently sitting in eighth place after helping the Buckeyes claim the Cup last year.
In the women’s field events, Air Force’s Shelley Spires is second in the NCAA in the high jump with a height of 6-0.75. Not far behind is Eastern Illinois’ Haleigh Knapp whose height of 6-0.5 puts her five spots back of Spires in seventh nationally.