The 107th edition of the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee is bound to be another phenomenal chapter in the illustrious history of ‘America’s Athletic Classic,’ with more than 50 Olympians set to grace the curves of the Blue Oval.
With the 2016 Rio Olympics on the horizon, Relays director Brian Brown has scoured the globe in search of the finest talent ready to use the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee as a springboard to Olympic glory this summer. As such, Brown has assembled 12 Rio Olympic Games Preview events. Those 12 competitions will give Relays’ fans a sneak peak at the future Olympic fields with defending Olympic medalists, World Champions, and heralded up-and-coming talents in each event.
One of the most anticipated of those events is the men’s 400 meters that features the last two Olympic gold medalists—Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt. Last year the pair dueled to the finish, with James edging Merritt at the line with 44.22 and shattering Michael Johnson’s 19-year Drake Relays record in the event.
James and Merritt finished the 2015 season ranked second and third in the world, respectively, and will be joined in the race by five other athletes that were ranked in the top 10.
Hurdles have become synonymous with the Drake Relays, and 2016 will be no different, with some of the best hurdlers in the world set for the 100/110-meter and 400-meter hurdles.
The men’s 110-meter hurdle field includes five of the top 10 in the world, including Olympic gold medalist and Relays regular Aries Merritt. David Oliver, the No. 2 ranked hurdler in the world, returns as well along with the likes of Hansle Parchment and young phenom Omar McLeod. However, reigning Relays’ champion Aleec Harris will be on hand to defend his title against the tough field.
The women’s 100-meter hurdles is equally impressive, with fan-favorite Lolo Jones leading a field that features five of the top eight in the world, including Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson and reigning 2016 indoor World Champion Nia Ali. Many of those hurdlers will join forces with the men’s field to compete in the frenzied shuttle-hurdle relay races.
Elite competition won’t be limited to the track, however. Field events guarantee to make the Relays non-stop entertainment, especially with three new twists to field events this year.
On Wednesday, April 27, some of the best pole vaulters in the world will take off inside Capital Square in downtown Des Moines. The one-of-a-kind event will feature the likes of World Champion Shawn Barber attempting to clear six meters while surrounded by fans. The experience at Capital Square will be similar to the Jordan Creek pole vault, giving fans the opportunity to watch the vaults from above on the second floor of capital square, as well as all sides around the pit on the floor.
Every jump in the men’s triple jump and women’s long jump will be met with baited breath as the jumpers compete in the ‘Leap for the Loot.’ The innovative enhancement awards an extra $1,500 to the top jumper in each of the events’ six rounds to put a total of $15,000 on the line for the jumpers.
The women’s shot put, which features four Olympians, will have a similar bonus, as throwers ‘Throw for the Dough.’ In addition to the traditional prize purse, the top throw from each of the six rounds will receive an additional $1,500 prize.
Relays week begins on April 24 with the annual Beautiful Bulldog contest followed by the Grand Blue Mile on April 26 and the Capital Square Vault on April 27. Action inside Drake Stadium begins on April 27 with the heptathlon and decathlon and continues with the Distance Carnival on April 28. The full slate of competition resumes on April 29-30. For tickets, visit www.DrakeTix.com or call the Drake athletics ticket office at 515-271-3647.