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Can stars recapture magic at Relays?

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Photo: Erik Van Leeuwen

This year’s Drake Relays are beginning to take form as athletes from around the world have begun to accept invitations to demonstrate their talents on the blue oval in Drake Stadium.

Christian Cantwell, a 2010 Drake Relays Hall of Fame inductee, will return to Drake Stadium to try to win his eighth title in the shot put event. He earned a silver medal for the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and won the shot put at the 2009 World Outdoor Championships in Berlin. Cantwell took the top spot in the Drake Relays record book with a toss of 72 feet, 6.25 inches in 2006. This year’s event will have several participants ranked in the top 10 in the world rankings.

“The shot put has always been a very special event,” Drake Relays Director Brian Brown said. “It’s an event that many of our spectators have come to know and love. What makes it special is the level of competition.”

Spectators will also get the opportunity to see Boaz Lalang and Alan Webb battle against one another both on the track and in the Grand Blue Mile competition in downtown Des Moines.

Webb holds the American record in the mile with a time of 3:46.91 and set the stadium record at the Drake Relays in 2007 with a time of 3:51.71.

Lalang, who hails from Kenya, is the defending Drake Relays champion in the mile and is ranked No. 10 in the world in the event.

This year will be the second running of the Wellmark Grand Blue Mile down Grand Avenue on April 26. A new addition to the event will be a large LED television screen located at the finish line, which will show the entire race.

“For those who were thinking about coming, hopefully this pushes you over the edge,” Brown said. “Not only will you be able to see a great finish, but you will be able to see a tremendous event from the start to finish.”

Damu Cherry will also return to defend her 2010 title in the 100-meter hurdles. Last year’s victory set a Drake Stadium record after posting a time of 12.65 seconds, when Cherry edged out hometown favorite Lolo Jones by .03 seconds.

“Damu made her presence known at the Drake Relays last year as she lined up in what may have been one of the most dramatic events last year,” Brown said. “She is excited and rearing to go and ready to come back to try and re-win that championship.”

Jones has not yet responded to the invitation to participate in the 102nd running of the Drake Relays.

Drake Relays Special Invitational Participants

The Drake Relays are renowned for attracting some of the biggest track stars in the world, not just college and high school runners. Last Thursday, Drake Relays Director Brian Brown announced four world-class athletes will compete in this year’s Relays. Here’s a quick run-down:

Christian Cantwell – Shot Put
• Won silver medal for the U.S. in 2008 Beijing Olympics
• Inducted into Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 2010
• Won 2009 World Championships in Berlin
• Owns Drake Relays and Drake Stadium records
• Ranked No. 1 in the world in 2004, 2009 and 2010

Alan Webb – Mile
• American record holder with a time of 3:46.91
• Set Drake Relays and Drake Stadium record with a time of 3:51.71 in 2007
• Won Drake Relays mile again in 2009

Damu Cherry – Hurdles
• Set Drake Relays and Drake Stadium record in 100-meter hurdles in 2010,
defeating Des Moines native Lolo Jones by .03 seconds
• Finished fourth in the 100 hurdles at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
• Set personal best in the 100 hurdles in 2006 with a time of 12.44 seconds

Booz Lelang – Mile
• Ran personal best 3:56.14 to capture the mile title in last year’s Drake Relays
• His time ranks third in Drake Stadium history
• Ranked No. 10 in the world in the mile and No. 3 in the 800.

Compiled by Matt Moran

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