This week marks the 106th annual Drake Relays, and as Drake Relays Director Brian Brown has declared, “The Sky Is The Limit.” Some of the finest athletes in the world will descend upon Des Moines on April 22 and continue through April 26.
“Nearly every elite athlete comments on the crowd and how much they appreciate it. I think the crowd also has a distinct Iowa feel to it,” said Ty Patton, assistant athletic director for athletic communications at Drake University. “I think our crowds are passionate and engaged about track. They know when they’ve witnessed a great performance, and they show that appreciation to the competitors.”
With so many events to choose from, we break down our Top Five.
The javelin throw is one of the classic track and field sports that nearly every person has wanted to participate in. For those unfamiliar, imagine throwing a spear and you get the basic idea. The men’s javelin must weigh at least 800g (1.76 pounds) and be 2.6m–2.7m (~8.5–8.9 ft) long, while the women’s javelin must weigh 600g (1.32 pounds) and be 2.2m–2.3m (~7.2–7.5 ft) long. Athletes will commonly throw four or six times per competition.
Men: 10 a.m. Friday, April 24*
Women: 1 p.m. Friday, April 24*
Not for the sluggish, this event tends to remind people the clear divide between fan and athlete. Competitors run once around the track while clearing 10 evenly spaced hurdles in the process. It’s not simply a dead sprint but a dead sprint punctuated by jumping bursts. Men jump hurdles that are 36 inches high; women negotiate 30-inch barriers.
Men: Beijing World Championship Preview (BWCP) 8 p.m. Friday, April 24; 1:13 p.m. Saturday, April 25*
Women: 12:08 p.m. Friday, April 24; BWCP 2:02 p.m. Saturday, April 25*
“The 800 meter has the element of being a full-out sprint for two laps in a pack with contact with other runners,” Patton said. “So probably a push.” The race is one of the most difficult considering it’s basically a half-mile sprint. Fans of The Flash will want to catch this race, showcasing some of the fastest men and women in the world.
Men: 1:40 p.m. Saturday, April 25*
Women: 2:01 p.m. Friday, April 24*
3,000 meter STEEPLECHASE
In the 3,000-meter steeplechase, athletes jump 28 barriers and seven water jumps, said Patton. It’s like a long-distance hurdling event, simulated cross-country and human equestrian all in one. Everyone loves a train wreck, and the water pit is just that. Spectators are rarely disappointed.
Men: 10:53 a.m. Saturday, April 25*
Women: 10:40 a.m. Saturday, April 25*
The T44 200 meter race gives a stage to those athletes who run with the use of prosthetics. This year’s athletes include world record holder Richard Browne and former world record holder Jarryd Wallace. Browne won silver in the 2012 Paralympic Games in the 100 meters, while Wallace took gold in the International Paralympic Committee’s 2013 World Championships. T11 competitor in David Brown, who is blind and runs with the aid of a guide runner, will also join the field. Brown owns the T11 world records in both the 100 and 200 meters.
“In many of these races, the Drake Relays is the only opportunity outside of an Olympics or World Championships that you may see these athletes all on the same track at the same time,” said Patton. “I hope spectators appreciate that right here in Des Moines there is an athletic competition that is on par with anything else in the world.”
*Times subject to change/delay. Visit http://www.godrakebulldogs.com/ for complete schedule. CV
David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.