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Future of Team USA on display as young quartet take titles at Drake Relays

4/30/2016
 

DES MOINES -- Four of Team USA’s youngest and brightest took home hardware as competition concluded at the 2016 Drake Relays, presented by Hy-Vee. All of the action from the Rio Olympic Preview events on the Blue Oval can be viewed on demand on USATF.TV +PLUS.


Coming off a chaotic 2015 summer campaign that included a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Toronto, a silver medal at the NACAC Championships and a berth at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Clayton Murphy (New Madison, Ohio) stunned Drake Stadium with a victory in the invitational men’s 800 meters. While not an official Rio Olympic Preview event, the invitational featured a star-studded field including multi-time national team member Erik Sowinski (Waukesha, Wisconsin) and World Indoor Championships gold medalist Boris Berian (Colorado Springs, Colorado).


Berian took the pace out quickly, as is his style, and the pack followed. Sowinski stayed on his shoulder for much of the first 400m, but Murphy began to pick off his competitors until he was shoulder-to-shoulder with Berian with 300m to go. Coming down the straightaway, Murphy kicked and Berian was unable to match, as Murphy won in 1:46.71 as the only amateur in the field. Berian was on his heels in 1:47.29 and Sowinski closed for third in 1:47.70.


Murphy noted that his experience from last summer only benefits him as a younger athlete preparing for the Olympic Trials in July.


“You have a summer like last year and you hope it wasn’t a one-time thing,” Murphy said. “Competing against a field like this while I’m still in college, and getting the experience I did in Beijing, it’s just invaluable.


In easily one of the most stacked fields in the meet, the women’s 100-meter hurdles did not disappoint. Continuing her dominance in 2016, Kendra Harrison (Clayton, North Carolina) blew the field away following a solid start out of the blocks. The 2016 world leader mowed down the field despite nicking a few hurdles to finish in 12.56. Kristin Castlin (Atlanta) and Brianna Rollins (Miami, Florida) made it a U.S. sweep, finishing second and third in 12.62 and 12.65, respectively.


The two-time 2016 USATF Athlete of the Week said the last two days of competition were “great, though the conditions were tough. I have a lot to work on but I’m so blessed to get these wins early in the season. This season has left me aiming even higher. I have high goals and I’m hungry and determined.”


Sandi Morris (Greenville, South Carolina) had a clean sheet Saturday, as the Rio Olympic Preview pole vault moved indoors due to soggy weather conditions. The Portland 2016 silver medalist made every height on her first try until her attempts at the indoor world record (5.04m/16-6.25). Morris was the only competitor over 4.70m/15-5, her final mark on the day, and decided to pass and turn in three tries at compatriot Jenn Suhr’s world indoor record. While Morris was unsuccessful, she noted the ability to compete against a field like this twice in four days mimics her preparation for a busy summer.


“Competing at Drake Relays, especially getting to participate in the Cap Square Vault and then again today, only helps me this year. Whenever you can jump against these girls, it’s good for my preparation and confidence. I like to jump a lot in practice, so I prepare myself for it anyway, but being in front of a crowd like Wednesday and jumping today against these girls, it was a great week of competition.”


Chris Benard (Corona, California) battled wind, rain and cold on the runway Saturday, coming away victorious in the Rio Olympic Preview men’s triple jump. Competing against World Indoor Champion Marquis Dendy (Middletown, Delaware), two-time Olympic medalist Will Claye (Phoenix, Arizona) and reigning USATF Indoor champion Chris Carter (Austin, Texas), Benard stayed composed after falling behind early in the jumping series. On his fourth jump, Benard took over the competition with a leap of 16.87m/55-4.25 courtesy of a bit of tailwind (+2.1). His mark was enough to surpass Carter’s best (16.77m/55-0.25) for a lead he would not relinquish over the final two rounds of jumps.


Benard noted that 2016 had been good to him, having made Team USA at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland.


“I’m not letting today or what’s happened so far this year go to my head,” Benard said. “It’s been a great year for me, but it’s just one meet. Obviously the guys competing with me are great, so today was a big win, but I’m ready to jump in Jamaica next weekend and keep working toward Trials.”


Next up on the USATF Championships Series circuit is the HOKA ONE ONE Middle Distance Classic on Friday, May 20. Action will air live on USATF.TV from Occidental College in Los Angeles. For more information, please visit the event page on USATF.org.



Amanda Brooks
Marketing and Communications Manager
USA Track & Field
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