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Setting the pace for scholarship, competition

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Story by Bailey Berg

One of the largest grocery store chains in the Midwest will serve as the presenting sponsor for the Drake Relays. With the Hy-Vee partnership, the 104th running of the Relays will be bigger than ever before.

Carolyn Hill, assistant director of Drake Relays operations, said the sponsorship enables the university to do things it hasn’t been able to do before.

“It would have been out of our budget,” Hill said. “This allowed us to take the Relays up another notch in terms of competition.”

The Hy-Vee sponsorship not only paid for the print, television and radio advertisements for Relays, but also paid for the prize money offered in the elite athlete events, including what is being called the London Games Rematch. In the rematch, several Olympians from the 2012 Summer Olympics will either defend their titles or vie for the top place.

However, not all of the competitions are limited to the confines of Drake Stadium or even to professional athletes. Hy-Vee will also sponsor the Road Races.

In years past, the Road Races included both an 8-kilometer and a half marathon race. This year, Drake University worked to make the races more accessible by turning the 8-kilometer into a 6-kilometer walk/run and adding a 10-kilometer run.

“We thought we could broaden the group of people who might enter this way,” Hill said.

The Road Races were also moved from Saturday to Sunday this year.

“Honestly, I wish it was Saturday instead,”  junior Sarah Birkholz said, who participated in the eight-kilometer race last year, and will be doing the half marathon this year. “I enjoyed the schedule of it last year.”

Hill said holding the Road Races on Saturday wasn’t really conducive to how they wanted Relays to finish.

“We wanted to have the opportunity to finish at the stadium, which we could only do on Sunday,” Hill said. “On Saturday there are events starting at 8 a.m. and going all day. Sunday gave us more options and allowed us to have a band. It’s going to be more of a festival atmosphere.”

Darin Hirl, Hy-Vee’s director of event marketing, said the move to Sunday also presents an opportunity for people at any skill level to get involved in Relays.

“Each participant will finish on the blue oval, an opportunity that has normally been reserved for competing athletes,” Hirl said.

On April 15, the last day participants could pre-register, more than 4,000 individuals were registered for the three races. That number almost doubles the 2,200 total runners from last year.

Hill said on race day she’s hoping to see 5,000 walkers and runners participate.

University President David Maxwell said he thinks it’s important that Drake students participate in the Road Races for a variety of reasons.

“For one, the entry fee, depending on which race, goes to support a local non-profit in the community,” Maxwell said. “It’s an opportunity to do something philanthropic.”

Funds from the 6-kilometer course will benefit Character Count in Iowa, and those from the 10-kilometer race will go toward the Healthiest State Initiative.

Maxwell also said participating in one of the races would be a great way for the Drake population to show its appreciation for the sponsorship.

“Their (Hy-Vee’s) sponsorship has allowed us to do some great things, and has attracted world class athletes, which is tremendously appreciated,” Maxwell said.

In an email to the student body on April 8, Maxwell urged Drake students to participate in the races and presented them with a challenge. For each current Drake student who completes one of the three courses, the Maxwells will donate $1 to the Drake general scholarship fund.

“If you all (students) rise to the challenge, that could result in thousands of dollars in additional money for scholarships next year,” Maxwell said in the email.

Maxwell, his wife Maddy and their dog Gus will be doing the 6-kilometer race.

There will be music along the courses, which begin and end at the Drake Stadium, a free technical T-shirt and gear bag at packet pick-up and a medal to all finishers. Post-race, there will be a party with food, live music featuring singer-songwriter  Eric Hutchinson and the first-ever Drake Relays closing ceremonies.

“It’s going to be fun,” Maxwell said. “It’ll be a great way to end a terrific week.”

 

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