Outdoor track and field championships in Iowa with field that includes Wariner, Richards-Ross

By Luke Meredith, AP
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Iowa hosts outdoor track and field championships

DES MOINES, Iowa — Des Moines has hosted the Drake Relays for more than 100 years and is considered a track and field hotbed by those in the know.

Iowa’s capital city has never seen a meet like this, though.

Drake Stadium will host thes USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, a first for the refurbished old horseshoe that’s embraced the sport for decades.

The gang’s all here, too, including sprinters Sanya Richards-Ross and Jeremy Wariner, distance star Bernard Lagat and hometown hurdler Lolo Jones, who used to run at Drake Stadium as a prep at nearby Roosevelt High.

“I just never would have imagined that USA’s would be here,” said Jones, who won the world indoor title earlier this year. “I’m just thrilled that it’s here.”

It’s a big week for both Jones and Des Moines, which is hoping to show it’s worthy of consideration for the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2016.

But first things first. It promises to be a typical summer weekend in Iowa — very hot and very sticky — which could mean any top marks are set in the short-distance events.

The men’s 100 and 200 meters could lead to some fascinating battles between Walter Dix, Wallace Spearmon and Shawn Crawford.

Dix, who won the bronze medal in Beijing, will be the favorite in the 100. But Spearmon, Crawford and up-and-comer Ivory Williams, who won in Kansas in April with the second-fastest American time this year, 9.95 seconds, will push Dix for the title.

Spearmon’s specialty is the 200, but Dix has run the third- and fourth-fastest 200 times in the world this year and Crawford is the defending national champion.

The 400 figures to be Wariner’s to lose. Wariner will be shooting for his third national outdoor title, and he ran a world-leading 44.73 in Rome two weeks ago. The wild card could be Florida star Calvin Smith, who ran a blazing 44.81 in Gainesville in April.

“In Rome, everything just fell into place,” Wariner said.

David Payne, a silver medalist in Beijing, leads the 110 hurdles field, and Bershawn Jackson will be shooting for a three-peat in the 400 hurdles.

The woman to watch in 400 meters will be Richards-Ross, a five-time U.S. Outdoor champion who’s been ranked No. 1 in the world for the last five years. Richards-Ross has yet to run this year, though, after straining a quad muscle a day before she was supposed to run at the Penn Relays.

“I feel strong. I’m not as race-sharp as everyone else will be because I have no competitions. But I’ve done it quite a few times, so hopefully I can rely on my experience,” Richards-Ross said.

Chaunte Lowe, last seen in the stadium doing her “Shaka Laka Boom” dance after breaking the meet record at Drake in April, is the overwhelming favorite to repeat in the high jump. Lowe set the American record at 6 feet, 8-¼ inches last month, and she’ll likely have the crowd on her side after her enthusiastic and endearing performance two months ago.

Former Iowa State star Lisa Koll will be the sentimental favorite in the women’s 10,000. Koll grew up in nearby Fort Dodge and, after finishing eighth in the 4,000 at the state track meet in Des Moines six years ago, returns as one the nation’s brightest young distance stars.

Koll recently became the fourth woman in NCAA history to win the 5,000 and 10,000-meter national titles in the same year.

Lagat set the U.S. outdoor record in the 5,000 at 12:54.12 back on June 4 and will be heavily favored in that event.

While Drake and city officials are hoping for an event with no hitches, USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan said Wednesday that it would be unfair to call this weekend’s meet a test for the Olympic trials.

Des Moines has always supported the Drake Relays well, as evidenced by a consecutive sellout streak for the final Saturday session that’s more than 40 years old. Drake Stadium, which underwent a $15 million renovation a few years back, is set to host the NCAA Outdoor Championships in both 2011 and 2012.

“It stands to reason that the more good things we see, the better impression we get. But this is in no way an evaluation. We respect the people in town here too much,” Logan said. “You’ve got great facilities. You’ve got a track-loving public. You’ve got the infrastructure to put together a great event.”

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