DES MOINES, Iowa--As Drake University readies to host its second consecutive NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in June, many of the top performers expected to claim collegiate titles in this Olympic year will get a sneak preview of the venue at this week's Drake Relays.
The 103rd running of "America's Athletic Classic" opens Wednesday and runs through Saturday at Drake Stadium.
Athletes from Florida's No. 2-ranked men's team and No. 4-ranked women's squads will compete, along with the No. 14-ranked Arkansas men's team. A host of other athletes who are returning Relays champions or are ranked among the top performers in the nation this outdoor season also are listed among the top-flight collegiate performers entered in the 2012 Drake Relays.
Mississippi junior Ricky Robertson will headline the high jump field after registering a world-leading jump of 7 feet 7 ¼ inches (2.32 meters) on April 6. He is in position to threaten the Drake Relays record of 7 feet 7 inches set by Relays Director Brian Brown in 1997 and matched last year by Dusty Jonas.
Oklahoma senior Luke Bryant has the No. 1 discus throw in the nation this year at 202 feet 4 inches (61.67m), and seeks his first Drake Relays title. The Drake Relays record is 206 feet 9 inches.
Junior Michael Granger from Ole Miss was second in last year's Drake Relays 100 meters, and returns having posted a top time of 10.17 this season, which ties for fourth in the nation (non-wind-aided).
Perennial Drake Relays college division heavyweight Lincoln (Mo.) is back to defend several crowns in the year head coach Victor Thomas is inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. Among those events is the men's 4x100 where Lincoln has claimed victory three years in a row. Last year's winning time of 39.91 just missed the Relays college division record of 39.90. Lincoln has a Division II-leading best time of 40.11 this season.
On the women's side, Iowa State's Kianna Elahi finished second in last year's Drake Relays 400-meter hurdles (56.73), and enters this year's event with the third-fasted time in the nation, 56.53, set at the Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on April 5.
Baylor sophomore Tiffani McReynolds, who finished third in the 100-meter hurdles at last year's Drake Relays, has posted the sixth-fastest time in the nation this season among collegiate competitors (12.97), on March 28 at the Texas Relays.
In the women's pole vault, athletes who have posted two of the top three marks in the nation this season will compete.
Georgia freshman Morgann Leleux enters her first Drake Relays pole vault contest carrying the second-highest mark in NCAA competition this season, at 14 feet 4 inches (4.37 meters). Last year's women's university/college pole vault was won at a height of 14 feet 1¾ inches (4.30m) by Nebraska senior Natalie Willer. South Dakota junior Bethany Buell, who finished seventh at Drake a year ago, comes back with the third-highest mark in the NCAA this year, 14 feet 3½ inches (4.36m).
The women's shot put will feature athletes who have posted four of the top five marks this outdoor season, including Oklahoma junior Tia Brooks, who won the 2011 Drake Relays title with a throw of 57 feet (17.37 meters). Brooks has posted the second-best throw this NCAA outdoor season (59-6.25/18.14m).
Brittany Borman of Oklahoma headlines the javelin field. The 2011 NCAA Outdoor champion leads the U.S. this season with a top throw of 194-11.25
Tickets for the 2012 Drake Relays April 25-28 are on sale now, and may be purchased online through the official Drake Athletics website (www.GoDrakeBulldogs.com) or by calling (515) 271-DOGS (3647).