Near-perfect conditions expected for Drake Relays
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Because of its place on the calendar, the Drake Relays has always been at the mercy of the weather.
After a miserable spring in Iowa, the organizers of this weekend's meet couldn't have asked for better conditions.
Competitors are expected to be greeted by sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s on Friday and near 60 degrees for Saturday's closing session. Those conditions could lead to some new Drake records after just one mark — Omar McLeod's own in the men's 110-meter hurdles (13.04 seconds) — fell a year ago in part because of nasty weather.
Here are some of the races and events to look out for at the 109th annual Drake Relays, the first of two major track meets at Drake Stadium this year. The USA Track and Field outdoor meet will be held in Des Moines in June.
THE HOT ONE HUNDRED
Drake will host a men's invitational 100-meter race for the first time since 2005, and seven of the eight runners set to compete in it on Saturday have Olympic experience. Seven of those eight athletes have also run the 100 in under 10 seconds — and that's never been done at Drake before. Three-time Canadian Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse, who took bronze at the 2016 Rio Games in this event, headlines a field that also features four Americans. The U.S. runner most likely to push De Grasse could be Mike Rodgers, who has a personal record of 9.85 and was the leadoff runner for the Americans in the 400 relay at Rio Games in 2016.
McLeod, a Jamaican and the defending Olympic gold medalist, withdrew from the men's 110 hurdles race earlier this week after claiming the last two meet titles. But world record holder Aries Merritt, the gold medalist at the London Olympics in 2012, is in the field along with Rio Olympian Devon Allen. The women's 100 hurdles event features the current world record holder in Kendra Harrison, along with 2012 London winner Dawn Harper-Nelson and past Drake winners Kristi Castlin and Jasmin Stowers.
TWO TO GO
Native Iowan Jenny Simpson, the storied American distance runner, worked with second-year meet director Blake Bolden to bring a new event, the women's two-mile run, to the program. Simpson, who won bronze in the 1,500 in Rio, who will attempt to break the U.S. record of 9:20.25 set by Shannon Rowbury in 2014. "I really hoping we can pull it off. It's going to be hard," said Simpson of her record try. "As long as I can stay on pace, hopefully I can bring it home."
The popular men's shot put event is back on the program this year, with Rio gold medalist and Olympic record holder Ryan Crouser of the U.S. leading a field that also includes 2017 world champion Tom Walsh of New Zealand. The field for the women's pole vault on Friday will be led by American Sandi Morris, the U.S. record holder and the silver medalist in Rio. Defending Drake and world champion Sam Kendricks will be favored in the men's pole vault.
HE SAID IT
"To come here and have this kind of weather, it's absolutely amazing," said Bershawn Jackson, a favorite for the men's 400 hurdles. "This is my fourth year coming (to Drake) and it's been absolutely cold every year."