DES MOINES (AP) — Drake Relays officials found a simple way to draw the best field in recent memory to Des Moines.
The meet recently landed a new presenting sponsor in Hy-Vee, a grocery store chain based in West Des Moines. Together, they came up with the idea of staging as many rematches of the 2012 London Games as possible to better compete with the more prestigious Penn Relays, which runs on the same weekend in Philadelphia.
The lure of a $50,000 purse for elite invitational races and $25,000 for special field events has drawn 19 medalists from the London Olympics to Des Moines, including the gold, silver and bronze medalists from the 110-meter hurdles.
“We’re not the little brother anymore,” Drake Relays director Brian Brown said. “We’re just taking it to another level and we’re excited to do that.”
The 104th Drake Relays crowns its first winners Thursday and concludes Sunday with a half marathon. But the days to truly watch will be Friday and Saturday, which are stacked with events featuring London Olympians.
The marquee London rematch could be the first one of the meet, the 110 hurdles. American gold medalist Aries Merritt and teammate Jason Richardson, who won silver last summer, will square off against Jamaican bronze medalist Hansle Parchment on Friday night.
Another juicy rematch will feature hometown fan favorite Lolo Jones, a four-time Drake champion, against two of her biggest Americans rivals. Jones, who finished fourth in the 100 hurdles in London, will face Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, who were openly critical of the attention heaped on Jones in London after they won silver and bronze, respectively.
The men’s 400 hurdles will be headlined by American silver medalist Michael Tinsley and Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, who finished third behind Tinsley in London.
The men’s shot put has long been the top field event at Drake because it typically draws a world class field.