DES MOINES, IOWA -- With the start of the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships less than two weeks away, competition director Mark Kostek said things are shaping up for the event to be "the greatest track and field meet ever held in the state of Iowa."
"This is the official USA championship for track and field and when you survey the field of the athletes who have entered the meet, it has been a super," said Kostek during a Thursday press conference at Drake. "We've had a great response.”
Drake Relays crowd favorites Chaunte Lowe and Bernard Lagat head a list of 22 Olympians entered in the meet.
Lowe, who competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, recently set an American record in the women's high jump at six feet 8.25 inches in Cottbus, Germany, May 30. Lagat, a three-time Olympian, set an American record in the men's 5,000 in Oslo, Norway, last Friday in 12 minutes 54.12 seconds.
"I anticipate the number of Olympians who will be competing here to double or even triple as we get closer to the entry deadline (June 18)," said Kostek, who also is an assistant athletic director at Drake.
If that isn't enough, five athletes who own world-leading marks in their respective events also will be competing.
"From that perspective we have a great field of athletes for track fans to enjoy," Kostek added.
The list of world leaders is headed by Lowe and 2008 Olympian David Oliver who owns the fastest time in the world in the men's 110 hurdles of 12.99 set in Shanghai, China, May 23. Other world leaders include Florida's Calvin Smith Jr., who has a world best time of 44.81 in the men's 400; Cory Martin, who is the world leader in the men's shot put at 72 feet 6.25 inches; and Queen Harrison who owns the world's top time in the women's 100 hurdles of 12.61.
Kostek expects an all out assault on Drake Stadium records.
Since the renovation of Drake Stadium was completed in 2006, 25 Drake Stadium records have been set. The last time Drake host a national championship meet, 17 Drake Stadium records were set at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
"Right now I would anticipate as many as 10 to 15 stadium records that could be set," Kostek said.
The USA Junior Nationals also will be held during the same time at Drake Stadium with athletes competing for berths on TEAM USA for the upcoming Junior World Championships in Moncton, Canada, July 19-25.
"That is what makes this meet so special because you will see the best high school athletes in the United States competing as well," said Kostek. "There will be some emerging elite athletes who could be household names at the 2016 or 2020 Olympics."
Hannah Willms from Dike-New Hartford High School heads a list of Iowa preps entered in the Junior Nationals. She has the best prep mark in the United States in the women’s high jump at 6-1.
All-session tickets, covering five days, are on sale for $100. A special Saturday and Sunday package is $50. Individual session tickets are also on sale for $20 for Wednesday, $25 for Thursday and $30 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“One of the things we’re looking to do is to establish ourselves as a viable site for the Olympic Trials,” said Kostek. “So what needs to happen is for the greater Des Moines community to turn out and show their support and give the athletes a great experience here.”