Minnesota dominates at Drake Relays

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Minnesota assistant coach Gary Wilson sent his 4x1600 relay team an email this week reminding them of the legacy the program had established at the Drake Relays.

These Gophers didn't need to check their inbox to know what to do on the blue oval.

Minnesota anchor Elizabeth Yetzer blew past Iowa's Lauren Hardesty down the stretch, giving the Gophers the title for the fifth time in six years Thursday at the Drake Relays.

"We have a countdown basically from when Drake Relays is over until we get to run it again," Minnesota senior Nikki Swenson said. "It's not like sporadically we win, it's every year. It's something we definitely look forward to."

Minnesota, which set the meet record last year at 18 minutes, 58.82 seconds, finished in 19:06.52 and beat the Hawkeyes by 11 seconds. The win also marked the fourth straight win at Drake for Yetzer, who redshirted in 2008 when Baylor took the event.

"It's just a huge privilege. I came in with a class of girls that were super talented. The people before that group were starting to set the tone that they were going to be a focused and successful team," Yetzer said.

The meet kicked off its first full day Thursday with a relatively light schedule highlighted by the decathlon, heptathlon and collegiate distance events. The Drake Relays continues with prep and college action Friday, including Minnesota's quest for a fifth consecutive meet title in the women's 4x800 relay, and wraps up Saturday with the marquee invitational events.

Former Northern Iowa star Mat Clark struggled through an injury-plagued season last year, and he entered the decathlon with one shot at putting up the 7,500 points needed to qualify for the U.S. Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Ore. in June.

He got his 7,500 -- on the nose and by just .05 seconds.

Clark needed to run 4:25.63 in the 1,500, the decathlon's final event, to reach the minimum qualifying mark for nationals. He battled windy conditions to post 4:25.58 and take Drake for the second time in three years, outscoring Michigan State's Cliff Miller by nearly 300 points.

"I'm pretty rusty right now, and this is by far the highest score I've ever had for my first decathlon of the year by a long shot," Clark said.

North Dakota State senior Whitney Carlson followed impressive efforts in the 100 hurdles and the 200 on Wednesday with a long jump of 19-11½ on Thursday to take the heptathlon title. She finished with 5,352 points to beat first-day leader Brianna Roy of Utah by more than 250 points.

Carlson said her experience growing up in tiny, cold and windy Windsor, N.D., worked to her advantage Thursday, since the temperature didn't crack 60 degrees until after the heptathlon.

"It's a town of 11 people, including the cows. Ten, now that I'm in college," Carlson said.

Georgia senior Bridget Lyons turned the women's 10,000 into a laugher, cruising past the rest of the field early in the race and winning in 33:31.14.

Obsie Birru, the surprise winner in 2010 out of tiny Grand View in Des Moines, was second. Birru beat her mark from last year by nearly a minute but still finished 1:28 behind Lyons, who was running her first 10k of the season.