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Iowa native Jenny Simpson wins fifth title at Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee


DES MOINES, Iowa -- Despite chilly temperatures and rain, athletes put forth title-worthy performances on the first day of Rio Rematches at Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee.

Iowa’s own Jenny Simpson (Boulder, Colorado) earned a staggering fifth Drake Relays win in the women’s 1500m. The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist returned to her home state determined to clinch another victory, saying she had a “target on my back” due to her recent success. As the final Rematch of the night, the field was stacked with middle distance stars including Team USA’s Brenda Martinez (Big Bear Lake, California), Kate Grace (Sacramento, California) and Sioux City native Shelby Houlihan (Portland, Oregon).

The lead runners made Simpson fight for the win and the top seven all finished within 2 seconds of each other. Runner up Martinez noted that Simpson “has such controlled aggression and competition… it’s always a pleasure to race against her.”

Live coverage continues tomorrow on USATF.TV +PLUS starting at 9 a.m. EST, with on-demand videos of today’s events available now. NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Rio Rematches from 3:00-5:00 p.m. EST. Click here for a complete broadcast schedule.

Due to rain, the women’s pole vault and high jump were moved inside Drake Fieldhouse. 2016 Olympic silver medalist and defending Drake Relays champion Sandi Morris (Fayetteville, Arkansas) went toe-to-toe against Kristen Hixson (Kentwood, Michigan) and Canada’s Alysha Newman. After a steady back and forth, Morris cleared 4.72m/15-5.75 on her first attempt and sealed her second consecutive win.

St. Lucia’s Lavern Spencer won the women’s high jump by clearing 1.91m/6-3.25. 2012 Olympic silver medalist Brigetta Barrett (Tucson, Arizona) came in fifth, followed by Erica Bougard (Chula Vista, California) and Susan Jackson (Gunnison, Colorado). Bougard will also compete in tomorrow’s Rio Rematch in the long jump.

In the women’s shot put elite invitational, current world leader Dani Bunch (Mahomet, Illinois) put away the competition with a final throw of 18.55m/60-10.5. Until Bunch’s last throw, Brittany Smith (Oak Park, Illinois) had led the field following her third throw reaching 18.10m/59-4.75. Rio Olympian Felisha Johnson (Terre Haute, Indiana) finished sixth at 17.24m/56-6.75.

Back-to-back Olympic gold medalist Christian Taylor (Arnhem, Netherlands) shut down the triple jump competition with his second jump of 16.93m/55-6.5. Team USA teammate Chris Benard (San Diego, California) finished second at 16.85m/55-3.5.

Four-time Olympic medalist LaShawn Merritt (Portsmouth, Virginia) once again went up against Jamaica’s Kirani James in the men’s 400m. The field was teeming with talent but Merritt made it look easy, winning his second Drake Relays title in 45.41. He was followed by 2016 World Indoor Championships 4x400m sprinter Vernon Norwood (New Orleans, Louisiana) in 45.68. Tony McQuay (Clermont, Florida), Merritt’s Olympic gold medal-winning 4x400m teammate, closed out the top three in 45.89.

Bershawn Jackson (Wake Forest, North Carolina) made his final season debut with a strong 400m hurdles, but it was no match for 25-year-old Michael Stigler (Lawrence, Kansas). Stigler, returning to competition following an injury last year, caught him in the final meters to finish in 49.07.

Saturday’s events begin at 9 a.m. EST with the high school girls’ shuttle hurdle. Visit for the complete the Rio Rematches lineup and here for the meet schedule. Results from all events are available at .

Fans can follow USATF at #DrakeRelays on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Ashley Mitchell

Marketing and Communications Manager

USA Track & Field



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