On Tuesday, Brian Brown, Drake Relays Director, announced the return of two former Drake Relays champions, Jenny Simpson and Wallace Spearmon, Jr.
“It is always a pleasure for me to unveil some of the key participants who I think will help this year’s Drake Relays to be so outstanding,” Brown said. “(Wallace) is poised and ready to really blaze the tracks. “Jen is a native Iowan, an amazing athlete who has continued to have great success, not only throughout the nation but internationally as well.”
Simpson is the current 1500-meter world champion, is a two-time U.S. outdoor champion, a three-time NCAA champion and competed in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2008 Olympics. Now, as she prepares for the London Olympics this summer, she will be returning to Iowa to compete in the special invitational 1,500 meters.
“This is an Olympic year so I think it’s only appropriate that coming back as reigning world champion that I would open up my outdoor season with this event,” Simpson said of the Drake Relays. “It is at a place where I consider myself to be from, and a lot of my family will be there, so it’s a really exciting thing.”
Wallace Spearmon will compete in the men’s special invitational 200-meter event, with hopes of breaking the Drake Relays record for that event, which set at 20.05 in 1996 by Michael Johnson. Spearmon has already run the race in a faster time than Johnson so far this year and is hoping to do the same at Drake to beat the record.
“It’s a pleasure for me to be invited back to the Drake Relays,” Spearmon said. “I still have a few things I want to accomplish when I get there. I feel like I’m in great shape. I had a season opener of 19.95 and I look to improve on that.”
Spearmon has already proven successful at Drake, falling just .015 short of Johnson’s record in 2010. Aside from his past performance at Drake Relays, Spearmon has displayed his skills by medaling in the 2005, 2007 and 2009 World Outdoor Championships as well as winning his first U.S. title in 2006.
Following an injury last year, and due to his preparation for the Olympics, Spearmon is being very careful and strategic in regard to training and racing this year.
“This year I’m actually treating it a lot different than I did in 2008,” Spearmon said of the difference in approaching this Olympic year. “In 2008 I kind of ran more races trying to run myself in shape. I was in shape but it was just trying to get race-sharp. But this year I’m practicing a lot harder, but I’m wearing flats, so I’m going into the season being cautious and being safe about injuries. I’m being smarter.”
Gabriele Anderson, Julie Culley, Heidi Dahl and Heather Kampf will join Simpson in the women’s 1,500-meter field.
The men’s 200 meters will include Jeremy Dodson, Jordan Boase, Greg Nixon, Willie Perry, Ainsley Waugh and Terrell Wilks along with Spearmon.