Five Olympic Medalists Added To Drake Relays Athletes Of Century List
DES MOINES, IOWA - Drake Relays director Brian Brown revealed eight more athletes who have been selected as the top 10 Drake Relays men's and women's Athletes of the Century during a news conference Thursday.
Headlining the group are four-time Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens, who was voted the Drake Relays Athlete of the First-Half Century in 1959; and sprinter Merlene Ottey, who has won nine Olympic medals - the most by any woman in track and field history.
Middle distance runner Mike Boit from Kenya, who won a bronze medal in the 800 at the 1972 Olympics; eight-time Drake Relays pole vault champion and record holder Jeff Hartwig; and sprinter Mel Lattany, who became the first collegian to win an event (100) in four consecutive years, also were selected among the top men's Drake Relays Athletes of the Century.
Olympic gold medalist and five-time Drake Relays record holder Lillie Leatherwood; two-time Olympian and hometown product Natasha Kaiser-Brown and 2008 Olympian Lolo Jones, who became the first athlete to win four straight invitational 100 hurdles titles, also were chosen among the top women's Drake Relays Athletes of the Century.
Together, the group combined to win 30 individual Drake Relays titles, setting 17 Drake Relays records in the process.
The Drake Relays overall men's and women's Athletes of the Century will be disclosed at a news conference on a later date.
All 20 Drake Relays Athletes of the Century will be honored during a gala event which is open to the public on Thursday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Drake Knapp Center.
The 100th running of the Drake Relays will be April 22-25 at Drake Stadium.
Previous athletes selected as men's Drake Relays Athletes of the Century included four-time Olympic gold medalist Al Oerter who was the greatest performer ever to compete in the discus; Olympic gold medalist Rodney Milburn, who set or tied the world record five times in the 110 hurdles; former Alabama sprinter Calvin Smith who was one of the finest 100 and 200-meter competitors in history; former American record holder Steve Scott, one of the greatest milers in track and field history; and decathlete Kip Janvrin, who is the Drake Relays career individual victory leader with 17 titles.
Earlier performers chosen as women's Drake Relays Athletes of the Century were three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton who is the only athlete to hold Drake Relays records in three events; four-time Olympic women's high jumper Amy Acuff; women's distance standout Cindy Bremser; Essie Kelley Washington who won three individual titles in the 800 and led Prairie View to five relay victories; along with Jill Lancaster, who won five heptathlon titles.
As a sophomore at Ohio State, Owens set an American record in the broad jump (26-1 3/4), just 3/8 inch off the world record, at the 1935 Drake Relays. He also equaled the Drake Relays record in the 100 yard dash (9.5). Owens would go on to win the gold medal in the 100, 200, long jump and 4x100 relay at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
Boit was named the co-Drake Relays Athlete of the Quarter Century (1960-84) with Steve Scott. He was named the outstanding performer of the 1973 and 1976 Drake Relays. He anchored Eastern New Mexico to six college division relay titles and won three 880-yard or 800 invitational races (1973,1975, 1976).
Hartwig dominated the pole vault at the Drake Relays, winning crowns from 1995 to 2001 and in 2007. The two-time Olympian was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2002 and owned the American indoor and outdoor records. He set two Drake Relays records, including the existing mark of 19-0 3/4 in 2007.
Lattany won the 100 in four consecutive years from 1978-81 competing for Georgia. He was never beaten in the 100 at the Drake Relays, winning preliminary races as well. He twice set the university-college record in the 100. He was named the outstanding performer of the 1981 Drake Relays after anchoring Georgia to victory in the 4x200 relay and a meet record 39.34 in the 4x100 relay.
The Jamaican born Ottey became the only athlete to be named the outstanding Drake Relays performer three times (1981, 1982, 1983) competing for Nebraska. She won four individual Drake Relays titles (100-1981, 1982; 400-1982, 1983).
Leatherwood rewrote the Drake Relays record in the 400 three times, starting in 1984 as a sophomore at Alabama. She was named outstanding performer of the 1986 Drake Relays after lowering her meet record in the 400 to 50.9, while powering Alabama from seventh place to victory in the 4x400 relay with a 50.0 anchor leg. She won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay for the U.S. in the 1984 Olympics.
Kaiser-Brown competed in 16 Drake Relays as a prep, collegian and professional athlete. She was named the first recipient of the outstanding high school girls' performer at the 1985 Drake Relays and won the invitational 400 at the 1990, 1993 and 1998 Drake Relays. She earned a silver medal in the 4x400 relay at the 1992 Olympics.
Jones set Drake Relays records in the 100 hurdles in 2005, 2006 and 2008 and reached the finals of the 2008 Olympics where she finished seventh.
Both Kaiser-Brown and Jones attended Roosevelt High School in Des Moines.
Eastern New Mexico, Kenya
A world class middle distance runner throughout the 1970s, Michael Boit earned the bronze medal in the 800 at the 1972 Olympics. He was named the Drake Relays Co-Athlete of the Quarter Century (1960-1984) while being named outstanding performer of the 1973 and 1976 Drake Relays. During his career at the Drake Relays, Boit won five individual titles and anchored Eastern New Mexico to six college division relay titles. He won four 880-yard or 800 invitational races in 1973, 1975, 1976 and 1981. He also won the university-college mile in 1974. Boit led teams to four straight distance medley relay titles (1973–76) and the sprint medley relay title in 1975 and 1976. He was second in the invitational 880/800 races in 1974 and 1977. A 1981 Drake Relays Hall of Fame inductee, Boit set NAIA records in the mile and 800 at Eastern New Mexico.
Jeff Hartwig dominated the Drake Relays invitational pole vault, winning eight career titles from 1995-2001 and 2007. A model of consistency for over a decade, Hartwig was an American indoor and outdoor record holder and competed in the 1996 and 2008 Olympics. Hartwig won the 1998 Goodwill Games and captured a silver medal in the 1999 World Indoor Championships. Owner of six U.S. national titles, including four outdoor (1998, 1999, 2002, 2003), he was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2002. He was the top-ranked vaulter in the U.S. in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002. A 2001 Drake Relays Hallof Fame inductee, Hartwig set his Drake Relays record of 19-0 ¼ in 1998. At the age of 40 he won the 2007 U.S. Indoor Championships and set the existing Drake Relays mark of 19-0 ¾. He also is the master’s world record holder.
Known as a compact sprinter, Mel Lattany became the first collegian in Drake Relays history to win an event (100) in four consecutive years (1978-1981). He was never beaten in the 100 at the Drake Relays, winning preliminary races as well. Lattany twice set the university/college record in the 100 – in the preliminaries in 1979 and a record-breaking 10.24 in the 1980 finals. In 1979, he anchored Georgia to victory in the 4x100 relay. He was named outstanding performer of the 1981 Drake Relays after anchoring Georgia to victories in the 4x200 relay and a meet record in the 4x100 relay (39.34). Lattany was inducted into the 1986 Drake Relays Hall of Fame. The six-time NCAA All-American also was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic track and field team.
As a sophomore at Ohio State, Jesse Owens set an American record in the broad jump (26-1 ¾) just 3/8 inch off the world record at the 1935 Drake Relays. That same year, he also equaled the Drake Relays record in the 100-yard dash (9.5). He was named the Drake Relays Athlete of the Half-Century in 1959, while being inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. He achieved international fame when he won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in the long jump, 100, 200 and 4x100 relay. He captured eight NCAA titles at Ohio State, scoring quadruple victories in both 1935 and 1936 in the 100, 200, low hurdles and long jump. His greatest day as an athlete occurred on May 25, 1935, when he set five world records and tied another in a span of 45 minutes at the Big Ten Conference Championships.
Des Moines native Lolo Jones was named the outstanding performer of the 2008 Drake Relays after becoming the first athlete to capture four straight Drake Relays titles in the women’s invitational 100 hurdles (2005–08). Jones set hurdle records in the 2005, 2006 and 2008 Drake Relays. She was a two-time Drake Relays champion for Roosevelt High School in the 100 (2000) and 4x100 relay (1998). She emerged onto the international scene after winning the 60 hurdles at the 2008 World Indoor Championships. The two-time U.S. Indoor champ also won the 100 hurdles at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials while advancing to the finals at the 2008 Olympics where she placed seventh. Jones was an 11-time NCAA All-American at Louisiana State. She won the 60 hurdles at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Championships and was a member of the 4x100 relay teams that won titles at the 2003 and 2004 NCAA outdoor meets.
A hometown hero who grew up in the shadows of Drake stadium, Natasha Kaiser-Brown competed in 16 Drake Relays as a prep, collegian and professional athlete. She was named the first recipient of the outstanding high school girls’ performer award at the 1985 Drake Relays running for Roosevelt High School. She won the inaugural high school girls 100 at the 1984 Drake Relays and led Roosevelt to Drake Relays titles in the sprint medley and 4x400 relays in 1985. Kaiser-Brown won the women’s invitational 400 at the 1990, 1993 and 1998 Drake Relays and was inducted into the 1995 Drake Relays Hall of Fame. While running for Missouri, she set a national collegiate record in the 400 (51.92) at the 1989 NCAA indoor meet. The two-time Olympian represented the United States on 16 national teams, highlighted by running a leg on the U.S. silver medal women’s 4x400 relay at the 1992 Olympics.
Lillie Leatherwood rewrote the Drake Relays record book in the women’s 400 meter dash three times. In 1984 as a sophomore at Alabama she made an auspicious debut, winning the invitational 400 in a meet record 50.98. She was named the outstanding performer of the 1986 Drake Relays after lowering the 400 meet record to 50.91, and powering Alabama from seventh-place to victory in the 4x400 relay with a 50.0 anchor leg. Leatherwood set the Drake Relays mark of 50.64 in the 400 as a senior in 1987 and bowed out as a collegian by anchoring Alabama to a record in the 4x400 relay (3:31.00). A 1992 Drake Relays Hall of Fame inductee, Leatherwood won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay for the U.S. at the 1984 Olympics. She also was a medalist on U.S. 4 x 400 relay teams at the 1987 and 1991 World Championships.
Jamaican born sprinter Merlene Ottey became the first athlete to be named outstanding Drake Relays performer three times (1981, 1982, 1983). She won four individual Drake Relays crowns (100—1981, 1982; 400—1982, 1983). In 1981, Ottey anchored Nebraska to victory in the 4x100 relay and set a meet record in the 100 at 11.18. She won the 100, set a meet record in the 400 (51.45) and anchored Nebraska to a meet record in the 4x100 relay at the 1982 Drake Relays. Ottey set a meet record in the 400 and anchored Nebraska’s winning 4x100 and 4x400 relays to meet records in 1983. The 1987 Drake Relays Hall of Fame inductee won nine Olympic medals, the most by any woman in track & field history, including three silver and five bronze medals. She won 14 World Championship medals from 1983–1997, more than any other athlete, male or female. Ottey ran the 100 meters under 11 seconds 67 times.