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Three Olympic gold medalists head additional list of Relays athletes of the century

February 12, 2009
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Relays Director Brian Brown

Drake Relays director Brian Brown revealed six more athletes who have been selected to be among the top 10 Drake Relays men's and women's athletes of the century during a news conference today.

Headlining the group are four-time Olympic gold medalist Al Oerter, who was the greatest performer ever to compete in the discus; along with three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton who is the only athlete to hold Drake Relays records in three events.

Olympic gold medalist Rodney Milburn, who set or tied the world record five times in the 110 hurdles; and former Alabama sprinter Calvin Smith, who was one of the finest 100 and 200-meter competitors in history, also were selected among the top Drake Relays men's athletes of the century.

Essie Kelley Washington, who won three individual titles in the 800 and led Prairie View to five relay victories, along with Jill Lancaster, who won five heptathlon titles, also were chosen among the top Drake Relays women's athletes of the century.

Together the group combined to win 24 individual Drake Relays titles, while setting 13 Drake Relays records in the process.

They join Steve Scott, one of the greatest milers in track and field history; decathlete Kip Janvrin, who is the Drake Relays career individual victory leader with 17 titles; four-time Olympic women's high jumper Amy Acuff and women's distance standout Cindy Bremser.

The 100th running of the Drake Relays will be April 23-25 at Drake Stadium.

Oerter became only the third athlete to win a gold medal in the same individual event for four consecutive Olympics (1956, 1960, 1964, 1968) setting an Olympic record each time. He was the first athlete to surpass 200 feet in winning his third gold medal. He was inducted into the 1959 Drake Relays Hall of Fame after winning the discus three consecutive years, starting in 1956 and setting records in 1957 and 1958. He returned to the Drake Relays in 1980, 22 years following his last appearance, and at the age of 43, won the invitational discus at 202-2, far past his Drake Relays university/college record throw of 185-7 1/2 in 1958 for Kansas. During his career, he also won two NCAA titles, six national AAU crowns and improved the world discus record four times.

During the early 1970s, Milburn dominated the 110 hurdles, capped by winning the gold medal at the 1972 Olympics setting a world record of 13.24, which would last until 1977. He won the first of three Drake Relays titles in the 120-yard high hurdles in 1971 to begin a year in which he would go undefeated including a gold medal at the Pan American Games. Milburn was named the outstanding track and field athlete in the world in 1971 by Track & Field news. He won three NCAA hurdles titles at Southern University. The Louisiana native also won four national AAU championships. He was inducted into the 1978 Drake Relays Hall of Fame.

Smith captured five individual Drake Relays titles. He won the university/college 100 in 1982, while anchoring Alabama to victories in the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. He was named the outstanding performer of the 1983 Drake Relays after setting a university/college record in the 100 while running on Alabama's 4x100 and sprint medley relays, which set meet records. He ran the 200 leg on the sprint medley relay, which set a national collegiate and American record of 3:12.19. He captured the invitational 200 at the 1984 Drake Relays and swept the invitational 100 and 200 in 1985. He was inducted into the 1988 Drake Relays Hall of Fame. He set a world record in the 100 (9.93) in 1983 and was a two-time world champ in the 200 (1983, 1987).  He won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics running on the 4x100 relay and captured a bronze medal in the 100 at the 1988 Olympics.

Favor Hamilton set Drake Relays women's records in the invitational 800 (2:01.68), 1998; invitational 1,500 (4:05.13), 2000; and invitational 3,000 (8:56.03), 2002. She won four individual Drake Relays titles in the invitational 800 (1997, 1998); invitational 1,500 (2000) and invitational 3000 (2002). She was named the outstanding performer of the 1998 and 2000 Drake Relays and was inducted into the 2001 Drake Relays Hall of Fame.


Kelley Washington was named the outstanding performer of the 1979 and 1980 Drake Relays. She anchored Prairie View to five relay victories, while she captured three titles in the 800. In 1978, she ran the 400 leg on the 800 medley relay that set a Drake Relays and national collegiate record of 1:38.89, which marked the first of six straight wins for Prairie View in that event. She also won the 800 and anchored the 4x400 relay to victory in 1979. She came back to win the 800 in the 1980 Drake Relays, while anchoring the 4x400 relay to a meet record 3:36.06 in the prelims. Kelley Washington closed out her Drake Relays career setting a meet record in the women's invitational 800 in 1986 of 2:03.35


Lancaster dominated the combined events at the Drake Relays in the 1980s, winning five heptathlon titles, starting in 1983. She also won Drake Relays titles in 1984, 1985, 1988 and 1989 and is the all-time career victory leader in the event.  She set a Drake Relays record with 5,443 points in 1983. A versatile athlete, Lancaster earned her first win at the Drake Relays in 1980 as a member of the Oklahoma 4x800 relay team that won in 8:40.93.