STORY BY KATHERINE BAUER
When the Drake Relays was ranked sixth in multi- day track and field events by All-Athletics.com for 2015, Relays coordinator Brian Brown took the recognition as a sign that he and his team are doing something right.
“It shows that we have that worldwide recognition,” Brown said. “The Drake Relays are a window into Drake and a front porch to Des Moines.”
Of the track and field events in the United States, the Drake Relays placed third behind the USA Championships and the NCAA Division I Championships as the best in the world through May of 2015.
The criterion for these rankings take into account how well participants performed and any world records set at the event.
The 2015 Drake Relays saw more than 30 athletes ranked in the top 10 of their respective events and five world records broken in the final day of competition alone.
The Drake Relays is one of the first outdoor meets of the season, meaning professional athletes have the opportunity to showcase
their readiness for higher-level competition later in the year.
“It’s their transition from winter to spring,” Brown said. “The athletes prove they can maintain at that level and that they can maintain through to the World Championships and the Olympics.”
The Drake Relays offer high school and college student- athletes a chance to show off their skills while also seeing some of the best professional athletes in the world.
“Relays are home meets for not only Drake athletes, but other Iowa schools,” Brown said. “It serves as a major resource for athletes.”
Brown noted a significant improvement in their rankings after acquiring Hy-Vee’s sponsorship in the fall of 2012.
“Hy-Vee believes in our vision, providing great resources to (helptheDrakeRelays)become the best in the world, which was our intention in partnering with them,” Brown said.
Brown sees an increasingly bright future for the Relays. He and his team are consistently looking for new ways to keep Des Moines and the rest of the nation engaged in what is going on at Drake.
“I think we’ve continued to change, evolve and grow. We have to maintain volatility by
being willing to change. I believe we are one of the best, if not the best event in track and field,” Brown said.
For example, the 2015 Drake Relays was the first to feature a paralympic event, a 200-meter sprint. The race was won by single-leg amputee Richard Browne with a time of 21.93 seconds who ran alongside other amputees and one blind runner.
“We make efforts to intentionally improve what wasn’t as good previously,” Brown said. “We don’t change for the sake of changing.”
More than just the addition of a single event, the Drake Relays have grown 400 times since its inaugural competition over a century ago.
The first Relays saw an audience of roughly 100 people with only 82 athletes. Now, more
than 40,000 spectators crowd Drake Stadium throughout the week to watch contestants from over 200 different higher education institutions along with world-class athletes.
“We’re trying to raise the bar after each event,” Brown said. “We have a community that embraces change. People ask, ‘What are you trying next? What’s happening next year?’”