DES MOINES, IOWA — Olympians rose to the forefront at the 103rd edition of the Drake Relays, playing a hand in three of the 15 meet records that were set during the four-day track and field extravaganza.
World leader and U.S. Olympian Wallace Spearmon set a Drake Relays record in the men’s invitational 200-meter dash in 20.02 seconds, breaking Michael Johnson’s mark of 20.05 set in 1997.
“He (Johnson) was one of the guys I idolized when I was growing up,” said Spearmon, who has run a 2012 world leading time of 19.95. “So to even be mentioned in the same sentence with him is a great honor. I have been trying and trying and finally reached my goal."
Two-time Olympian Chaunte' Lowe set a Drake Relays record in the women's invitational high jump, soaring 1.98m/6-6 to break her previous meet record of 1.95m/6-5 in 2010. The reigning World Indoor champion had no misses until 2.01m/6-7. The ageless Amy Acuff, going for her sixth Olympic Games, finished second at 1.85m/6-0.75.
With Saturday's performance, Lowe now has the top two jumps in the world this year, including a world best of 2.00m/6-6.75.
U.S. record holder Jenn Suhr, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, marked her 2012 outdoor debut on a high note setting a Drake Relays record in the women's invitational pole vault on her first attempt at 4.65m/15-3, which is second on the 2012 world outdoor list. She passed at 4.70m/15-5 then missed all three attempts at 4.80m/15-9.
"It's hard to pass up a pole vault opportunity here in Des Moines,” said Suhr, who also won the Drake Relays’ Pole Vault in the Mall Wednesday. “The crowd was so great when I was at the mall and I was pumped up and thought it better to open up the outdoor season while I was here.”
Suhr narrowly missed an American indoor record during the Pole Vault in the Mall competition at 4.89m/16-0.75, just past her latest U.S. mark of 4.87m/16-0 that she set at the New Balance meet in Boston, Mass., Feb. 4. American indoor record holder Brad Walker captured the men's Pole Vault in the Mall title, soaring 5.72m/18-9.25.
2011 World Outdoor gold medalist Jenny Simpson opened the outdoor season, returning to her home state Saturday to win the Drake Relays women's invitational 1500m title in 4:12.95.
"I did not realize how close the field was getting," said Simpson who was born in Webster City, Iowa. "You have to remember when you take the lead. You have to press every 400 meters, because you have a target on your back.”
Two-time Olympian Jamie Nieto captured the men's invitational high jump at 2.24m/7-4.25.
The men's invitational 110m hurdles saw the second and third fastest times in the world this spring recorded.
Ryan Wilson set a meet record at 13.20, chipping one-hundredth of a second off the previous mark, which he set in 2009. Wilson beat a strong field, which included 2012 USA Indoor champ Omo Osaghae (13.24), two-time Olympic silver medalist Terrence Trammell (13.36), Antwon Hicks (13.41) and Ty Akins (13.43).
In the women’s invitational 100m hurdles, Kristi Castlin posted the fourth-fastest time in the world winning in a personal best of 12.76 to beat Nia Ali (12.83) and Canadian Olympian Angela Whyte, who finished third in 12.97.
World Indoor champion Ryan Whiting won the men’s invitational shot put at 21.31m/69-11, which ranks fourth on the world outdoor list.
The four-day attendance figure for the Drake Relays was 39,319, including 14,504 fans on Saturday, marking the 47th year that session was sold out.