The Drake Relays is an outdoor track and field event held in Des Moines, Iowa, in Drake Stadium on the campus of Drake University. Billed as America’s Athletic Classic, it is regarded as one of the top track and field events in the United States. In 2020, the Drake Relays was named a Silver Level event on the World Athletics Continental Tour, one of only two competitions in the United States to earn Silver Level status.
Drake Relays History
The inaugural Drake Relays were held in 1910. The first meet drew just 100 spectators and 82 athletes, all from Des Moines-area colleges and high schools. The second year, however, drew 250 athletes and a crowd of some 500 spectators. In 1914, the Relays saw its first world record set. By 1922, the Relays had been expanded into a two-day event that drew 10,000 fans and became the first major track and field event broadcast on the radio. For the 1926 Relays, Drake Stadium was completed on the site of the prior host, Haskins Field.
Women’s events were added beginning in 1961 with Wilma Rudolph competing in the 100 meters. The 1966 Relays began a streak of 48 consecutive Saturdays with a sellout. In 1969, a $175,000 tartan track was installed. The events at the Relays would go all-metric beginning in 1976; the track was rebuilt in a 400-meter oval in 1978. The track oval was resurfaced in 1983 and in 1988 was renamed the Jim Duncan Track to honor the long time relays public address announcer.
In 2006, a Friday night session was added for the first time. In 2010, the Grand Blue Mile, a one-mile road race in downtown Des Moines, was added as the first athletic event. The current week of festivities begins with a parade on Saturday, continues with a Beautiful Bulldog Contest on Sunday, the Grand Blue Mile on Tuesday, and an indoor pole vault on Wednesday with the decathlon and heptathlon beginning Wednesday and concluding alongside the distance carnival on Thursday.
Among other recent enhancements, in January 2018 Drake Relays unveiled the Blue Standard. Iowa’s top high school athletes can now automatically qualify for the relays based on their times in their respective events. The Blue Standard is based on the historical data of the top 25 percent of accepted entries from past Drake Relays.
In March 2020, Xtream powered by Mediacom was named the new presenting sponsor of the Drake Relays in a partnership that quickly enhanced and elevated the international reputation of the Drake Relays. Xtream’s partnership allows the Drake Relays to maintain its status as one of the world’s premier track and field events while serving as a springboard for the future growth of the event to be known as the Drake Relays presented by Xtream powered by Mediacom.
Drake Relays Drake Stadium
Opened in 1925, the 14,557-seat stadium and its famous blue oval have hosted the Relays since 1926. A $15 million renovation in 2006 reduced capacity from 18,000 seats in order to expand the lanes, allow fans to watch throwing and running at the same time, and allow for more hosting of events. Another renovation following the 2016 relays saw a new track installed, constructed of the same material used for tracks in Beijing and London for the Summer Olympics.
Drake Relays Relays Directors
Eleven men have claimed the role of director of the Drake Relays since the very first officially organized track and field event took place more than 100 years ago back in the year 1910.
1.John L. Griffith 1910–1918
Griffith was the founder of the Drake Relays. He remained director for nine years and moved to the University of Illinois after World War I. He later became commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. Drake’s live bulldog mascot, Griff, is named for him.
2.M. B. Banks 1919–1921
Banks also served as coach to the Drake football and basketball teams.
3.K. L. (Tug) Wilson 1922–1925
Wilson was a former Illinois and Olympic athlete. After his tenure as director, he went on to become athletic director at Northwestern University. Wilson was also a former Big Ten Conference commissioner.
4.O. M. (Ossie) Solem 1926–1932
Longtime Drake coach succeeded Wilson, later became head football coach at the University of Iowa and Syracuse University
5.M. E. (Bill) Easton 1941–1947
6.Tom Deckard 1948–1955
7.Bob Karnes 1956–1969
8.Bob Ehrhart 1970–2000
9.Mark Kostek 2001–2005
10.Brian Brown 2006–2016
Brown participated in the relays himself and held the Drake Relays record in the high jump until 2014. For his first eight years as director, Brown had attempted to have his record broken by recruiting some of the best high jumpers in the country.
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