Everyone knows that the Drake Relays in Des Moines are held on the last weekend in April, but the Jim Duncan Invitational is this weekend at Drake Stadium, and it helps to illuminate all the local talent.
The Drake Relays are for elite athletes that use the event to prepare for championship season, whether it is for the NCAA Championships, which will be held at Drake, or the 2012 Olympics for professional track athletes.
The Jim Duncan Invitational, however, is Iowa’s practice run for one of the biggest sports spectacles in the world.
“Typically, (it is) our precursor for the Relays,” said head track and field coach Natasha Kaiser-Brown. “It’s a mock run-through so we are ready for when we have Relays two weeks later.”
As a native of Des Moines and a graduate of Roosevelt High School, Kaiser-Brown expressed the importance of the locality of the Jim Duncan Invitational.
“This meet is pretty much ours; we don’t share with anyone else,” said Kaiser-Brown.
Junior Marissa Smith is preparing for this meet the same way she prepares for championship meets, but once the gun sounds, she plans to hold down the fort.
“You’re at home, and Jim Duncan is a smaller meet, so there is no reason to not win or at least be in the finals,” said Smith. “I run here every day. This is my house.”
Freshman Mariel Fulton is training for her first Jim Duncan Invitational. This is also her first time ever competing on Drake’s blue track because this is the team’s first outdoor home meet of the season.
“It’s my first one (meet) ever at Drake,” said Fulton. “We had one about 10 minutes away in Des Moines for cross-country season, though.”
In addition to competing on the Jim Duncan track for the first time, Fulton will also be treading in uncharted waters with her event this weekend.
“I’m kind of nervous because I’ve never done a five-(kilometer race) on a track, and my training has been a little tough,” said Fulton.
The Jim Duncan Invitational is the ultimate showcase of the track and field talent here in Iowa.