DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa native Amanda Dunne had left running at the highest level comfortably behind. The former Missouri star settled down, got a job and had a baby.
Still, Dunne couldn't shake the feeling that she might have something left.
Dunne crossed the finish line first in the 5,000 meters at the Drake Relays on Thursday night, blowing away the field by nearly 11 seconds.
Dunne, who first won at Drake while at Pleasant Valley High 12 years ago, has returned to the track this season after a four-year absence. Though the official victory went to Oklahoma's Jessica Engel because the race was in the university/college division, Dunne finished in 16:04.53 in the first 5,000 of her comeback.
"The passion never dies," Dunne said. "I'm loving it."
Dunne, now 29, was a three-time Big 12 champion at Missouri. She spent a few years running after college before leaving the sport to start her career as a physical therapist and raise daughter Makinley.
But Dunne got the itch to return five months ago, and she ran a pair of 1,500s before making her return to Drake. Dunne still hasn't decided whether to focus on the 1,500 or the 5,000 as she ramps up her training for a push at an Olympic Trials spot, but she said she's having a blast either way.
"It's a little different perspective than when I was in college," Dunne said. "I didn't know when I stepped back on the track in December if it was a crazy longshot. But I was just too excited about it. I had to try it."
The Iowa women's 6,400-meter relay team won the Drake Relays for the first time in school history, snapping Minnesota's three-year winning streak in the event.
Obsie Birru of Grand View, a small school in Des Moines, won the women's 10,000 by 15 seconds. Illinois senior Colin Mickow won the men's 10,000 for the second time in three years.
Anthony Rotich of Texas-El Paso won the men's 5,000 in 13:57.09, capping a light first day at the 103rd annual meet.
Minnesota had won the 6,400 relay five out of the last six years, setting the meet record at 18:58.82 in 2010.
But it was a native Minnesotan who ensured the Gophers wouldn't carry on their dominance in the meet's longest relay.
Hawkeyes anchor McKenzie Melander of Apple Valley, Minn., ran a 4:40.5 split, a second faster than Gophers anchor Laura Docherty, to give the Hawkeyes the title.
"Three of us are seniors, so we've waited a long time for this," Melander said. "I didn't really know where (Docherty) was most of the race. I was trying to keep going along and finish the best I could."
U.S. decathlete Bryan Clay, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, skipped the javelin and the 1,500 on Thursday. Clay came to Drake for the first time in an effort to get his legs underneath him so early in the outdoor season and to christen his relationship with his new sponsor, Asics, which also sponsors the meet.
Clay ran the 100 in 10.45 on Wednesday and the 110 hurdles in 13.92 on Thursday before heading home.
Northern Iowa's Daniel Gooris won the decathlon with 7,624 points. Jamaica's Peaches Roach-Findlay won the heptathlon with 5,709 points as foreign athletes claimed the top three spots in that event for the first time ever at Drake.
The meet opened with blue skies, light wind and temperatures in the high 60s -- but such marvelous conditions aren't expected to last.
The forecast for Friday and Saturday is for rain and temps in the low 50s. Those aren't exactly ideal conditions for runners looking to stay loose, and some of the athletes with an eye toward the London Games could pull out rather than risk injury.
The collegians will be the focus Friday, with the elite invitational events set for Saturday.