By DRAKE LOHSE
There are many reasons why the Drake Relays hold a special place in the heart of Des Moines. For a brief window every year, high school students from across Iowa can bump into their heroes waiting in line for a corn dog. Events like the Grand Blue Mile give Olympic athletes the chance to feel Des Moines’ most intimate corners.
The 2019 Drake Relays will be no different. Top tier talent from across the nation have already announced their intention to compete.
Grand Blue Mile
Grand Blue Mile preliminary events for the 2019 USA Track & Field 1 Mile Road Championships have been set for Tuesday, April 23, in Des Moines. A world-class group of elite milers will headline the event. Over 3,500 participants from across the nation are expected to compete among the recreational and amateur competitive divisions.
A top prize of $5,000 is awarded each for the men’s and women’s champions. Should that winner set a new course record, they will be awarded another $2,500. The current records stand at 4:00:00 (2017) for the men’s race, and 4:32:07 (2014), for the women’s race.
Riley Masters is the returning champion for the men’s. On the women’s side, Emily Lipari returns to defend her title, joining three-time Grand Blue Mile champion Heather Kampf. Below is a complete list of athletes competing in the men’s and women’s Grand Blue Mile.
Maddie Van Beek
The Grand Blue Mile also serves as this year’s USA Road Mile Championships. Many athletes competing in the Grand Blue Mile will also run in both the 1,500 meters and the mile.
This year’s men’s mile features six competitors who have previously run faster than a four-minute mile. In Drake Stadium history, 34 competitors have shattered the four minute mark.
Local talent Erik Sowinski will look to make his mark on this year’s men’s mile. The Iowa Hawkeyes’ standout made his mile debut at the Drake Relays last season, with a fifth place finish. Sowinski is a three-time USA Champion, and was the bronze medalist at the 2016 World Indoor Championships in the 800 meters.
Sowinski has been in the finals in each of the last 13 USA Championships with seven indoor finals appearances and six outdoor finals appearances.
Daniel Herrera makes his return to the Drake men’s mile event. Herrera finished seventh in last year’s Drake Relays mile.
Harun Abda was the 2018 USA Indoor Champion in the 800 meters, and was a four-time Drake Relays champion while competing for Minnesota. Another collegiate standout, Chad Noelle, also returns to the Blue Oval to join the mile field.
Jack Edwards, Brandon Lasater, Joe Coffey, Mike Marsell, David Elliot, Jay Welp and Julius Bor are also set to compete in both the men’s mile and the Grand Blue Mile.
Heather Kampf won’t just be looking for a fourth Grand Blue Mile championship. Kampf will be participating in the women’s 1,500 meters. Kampf is a former member of USA Pan-American Games teams.
Shannon Osika and Hannah Fields finished fourth and fifth at the 2019 USA Championship. Both Osika and Fields will compete in this year’s 1,500 meters.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons