Officials lure elite field for Drake Relays

Updated: April 21, 2010, 3:43 PM ET
Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Drake Relays director Brian Brown has already seen one benefit from helping lure the national track and field outdoor championships to Des Moines in June.

It made his annual bid to get athletes to compete in the Relays a much easier sell.

Brown said Tuesday that the Drake Relays, which usually lands 100-110 elite athletes, will feature as many as 160 this year. Brown said he believes that's because many of the competitors want to get an early look at Drake Stadium.

"It matters to get a mental picture of what it's going to be like so when they go back home before June, they are really doing a lot of mental imagery preparing for the turn, where to make a move. It's been a big impact," Brown said.

The 101st annual Drake Relays opened Wednesday with the heptathlon and decathlon, though those finals don't begin until Thursday.

The field is headlined by 14 meet record holders, including hometown hurdles star Lolo Jones, who famously stumbled in the 100-meter finals in Beijing in 2008 and finished seventh. She attended high school just down the road from Drake Stadium and always makes it a point to compete.

Jones will be seeking her fifth career Drake Relays title in the 100 hurdles. Her main competition will likely come from two-time Olympian Perdita Felicien, who will be inducted into the meet's Hall of Fame on Thursday.

"She's going to have a star-studded field," Brown said of Jones. "They know this is Lolo's home, and those young ladies are very, very competitive."

U.S. shot putter Christian Cantwell, who won silver in Beijing, headlines what is always a strong field. Cantwell holds the meet record with a put of 72 feet, 6.25 inches, but he'll face stiff competition from two-time U.S. Olympian Reese Hoffa.

German shot putter Nadine Kleinert, who took silver at the 2009 World Outdoor Championships, leads the women's field.

Chaunte' Lowe, the top ranked high jumper in the U.S. and the bronze medalist in this year's World Indoor Championships, could break the meet record of 6-2.25. Lowe has notched seven career jumps over 6-6.75 and won at Drake in 2009.

The list of athletes making their meet debut is headed by American sprinter Wallace Spearmon, who'll compete in the invitational 200 meters. Spearmon has been ranked among the top four in the world every year since 2005 and could threaten the meet record of 20.05 seconds set by Michael Johnson in 1997.

Javier Culson, a silver medalist in the 2009 World Outdoor Championships for Puerto Rico, will make his first trip to Drake for the men's 400 hurdles, a field that also includes Jamaica's Isa Phillips and former University of Georgia star Justin Gaymon, who won the last four university-college 400 titles at Drake.

The top four men's high jumpers in the U.S., including top-ranked Jesse Williams and two-time defending meet champion Derek Miles, round out the invitational field for that event.

Top collegians will include Iowa State distance star Lisa Koll, who owns the top women's 10,000-meter mark this spring at 31:18.07. She's slated to anchor the Cyclones distance medley and 6,400-meter relay teams.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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