The men’s 400 meters will feature five Olympians and the latest chapter in the rivalry between LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James on the Blue Oval. James won the event last year with a Drake Relays record of 44.08 en route to capturing the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics while Merritt was second the Drake Relays and an eventual 2016 Olympic bronze medal. The pair has combined to win two of the last three Olympic gold medals in the event with James doing so in 2012 and Merritt in 2008.
The event will also include the up-and-coming Bralon Taplin who finished his 2016 season ranked fifth in the world after finishing seventh at the Olympics and third at the Drake Relays. Relays’ regulars Tony Quay and David Verburg also return in the event.
The women’s 100-meter hurdles will maintain its legacy as one of the premier events at the Drake Relays with this year’s Rio Olympic Rematch event featuring six Olympians, the world record holder, the 2016 Olympic silver and bronze medalist and the 2008 Olympic gold medalist. All eight competitors in the field finished the 2016 season ranked in the top 10 in the world.
The defending Drake Relays champion and current world record holder Keni Harrison returns to the Blue Oval to defend her title after running 12.20 last summer and winning the U.S. Indoor Championship recently. She will be joined by 2016 Olympic silver medalist Nia Ali and the bronze medalist, Kristi Castlin. Castlin was the Drake Relays runner-up in 2016 and champion in 2012 and 2014. Dawn Harper-Nelson, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and 2012 silver medalist returns to the Blue Oval as a three-time world champion as well.
Queen Harrison joined Thursday’s announcement via video conference to announce she is returning to the Drake Relays. A Drake Stadium favorite, Harrison was the 2013 Drake Relays Champion and owns the 10th fastest time ever by an American at 12.43 and finished the 2016 season ranked eighth in the world.
The 2015 Drake Relays Champion and Drake Relays record holder Jasmin Stowers is also in the field as is Cindy Ofili, the 2016 Drake Relays university champion who finished fourth at the 2016 Olympics running for Great Britain. Her fellow British competitor, Tiffany Porter, also returns to Drake after advancing to the 2016 Olympic finals and finishing seventh.
Boldon also announced the full fields for the men’s and women’s Rio Olympic Rematches inside Drake Stadium with 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sandi Morris headlining the women’s field. Morris is the American record holder in the event at 16-4.75 (5.0m) and opened her 2016 season with a Drake Relays title before finishing ranked No. 1 in the world in 2016. Mary Saxer, a regular at the Drake Relays who finished fourth in 2016, is also in the deep field, as is Canadian national record holder and 2016 Olympian Alysha Newman. A Drake Relays newcomer, Diamara Planell-Cruz also joins the field as the Puerto Rico national record holder and the nation’s first ever Olympian in the event.
The men’s pole vault is equally impressive with 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Sam Kendricks returning to Drake Stadium as is Canadian national record holder, 2015 World Champion and 2016 Olympic finalist Shawn Barber. 2016 Olympians Logan Cunningham and Brazilian Augusto Dutra also join the competition inside Drake Stadium.
Thursday’s announcement marks less than one week until the 108th edition of America’s Athletic Classic gets underway at Drake Stadium. Competitive action in Des Moines begins on Tuesday with the annual Grand Blue Mile on the streets of downtown Des Moines. Tickets are available for all sessions of the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee by visiting the Drake Athletic Ticket Office, calling 515-271-3647 or using DrakeTix.com