Photo by Matthew Gogerty
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY MATTHEW GOGERTY
Drake University has been searching for the 12th Franklin ‘Pitch’ Johnson Drake Relays Director since the departure of Brian Brown earlier this year. On the afternoon of Oct. 11, a press release revealed that the search had come to an end when Blake Boldon was announced as the new director.
An introductory press conference was held at the Knapp Center the following day where Drake President Marty Martin and Athletic Director Sandy Hatfield-Clubb spoke before welcoming Boldon to the stage.
“We are so happy that we have our new director on board in the form of Blake,” Martin said. “The experience he is bringing, the talent he is bringing, the commitment he is bringing, and we see nothing but great things.”
Boldon, an Iowa native who was raised in Osceola, delivered a colorful anecdote of his grandmother talking to him about the new job during his commencement speech, helping illustrate his level of excitement.
“One of the things she said to me and it stuck with me immediately was, ‘Oh boy, this is quite an honor to be employed by Drake University.’” Boldon said. “… To have the opportunity and challenge to step into the shoes that Brian Brown has left after his 11 years here is exhilarating, scary and the single most thrilling opportunity of my lifetime.”
Boldon spent the last four years as the executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, which is now the biggest marathon in Indiana. Also under his leadership, the Indianapolis Monumental went from 60th largest marathon in the U.S. to the 20th. Coupled with his directing experience, Boldon also possesses a breadth of experience in athletics both competitively and as a coach.
From 2005 to 2008, Boldon was the recruiting and academic coordinator at Iowa State University. Then, in 2009 and 2010, he coached at University of Alabama at Birmingham. He also spent two years as the head cross-country coach at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was able to help plan and execute the Penn Relays, an event similar to Drake Relays with attendance that peaks over 100,000.
Filling the role of the former director Brown is not light work for Boldon, who recognizes he is walking in to great expectations as the new leader of Drake’s premier event. However, Boldon has every intention of fulfilling the vision Brown had established before he took his leave.
“I’m not an architect or a builder, but I know enough,” Boldon said. “I know that if a blueprint is in place and the foundation is laid, that blueprint is still the guiding map. So we’ll look right now to 2017 and a Rio rematch, and continue the tremendous work of the foundation that is in place.”
Hatfield-Clubb, who was in charge of filling the vacancy, spent the better part of this year looking for the candidate. She identified many caveats of finding the most qualified candidate, primarily looking for someone who could carry on the 107-year tradition of the Drake Relays.
“I sit down every time I do a senior-level search and I write out some things that if we were to dream about the characteristics of the person we want to fill this job,” Hatfield-Clubb said. “Number one is impeccable character, someone respected throughout the entire world of track and field … Well, we hit a home run. I could not be more excited about Boldon.”
Boldon is yet to fully transition into his new role in Des Moines, but Drake Athletics is working closely with him so that he can fulfill his concluding obligations in Indianapolis and make a smooth transition from Indiana to Iowa.