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Rio Olympic Preview events at Drake Relays highlight weekend of impressive matchups


DES MOINES -- 13 Rio Olympic Preview events and a stacked co-ed shuttle hurdle relay are just some of the featured highlights surrounding the elite events at the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee. Rio Olympic Preview events kick off Friday with the men’s high jump at 7 p.m. ET and on the track with one of the most highly anticipated events of the weekend, the men’s 400 meters at 8:20 p.m. ET.

A stop on the USATF Championship Series, coverage of the Drake Relays began at 5 p.m. ET Thursday on USATF.TV +PLUS and continues through Saturday evening. Fans can also watch the Drake Relays on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday from 3-5 p.m. ET. A full schedule can be found here.

LaShawn Merritt (Portsmouth, Virginia) takes on Olympic champion Kirani James and compatriot David Verburg (Lynchburg, Virginia) in the men’s 400m Friday night, a race that will prove to be a battle after both Merritt and James turned in impressive performances at the Chris Brown Invitational just two weeks ago. Merritt won the 200m in 19.78 for a personal best, while James won his signature event in 44.36.

In other track action, Bershawn Jackson (Miami, Florida) and Johnny Dutch (Clayton, North Carolina) will face off in the men’s 400-meter hurdles Friday at 8:32 p.m. ET. Dutch is currently ranked second in the world in the event, while Jackson will open his season in Des Moines. The sole middle distance race of the Rio Olympic Preview events, the women’s 1,500 meters at 8:56 p.m. ET features two-time Olympian Jenny Simpson (Oviedo, Florida) and World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, California) going head-to-head on the Blue Oval. Simpson is undefeated all-time against Martinez in the 1500m, finishing ahead in all nine matchups.

The field event matchups Friday night are impressive as well, with a Portland 2016 rematch in the men’s pole vault as World Indoor silver medalist Sam Kendricks (Oxford, Mississippi) takes on 2015 World Championships gold medalist Shawn Barber of Canada. Barber edged Kendricks in the pole vault exhibition on Wednesday in the atrium at Capital Square.

In the women’s long jump, Tianna Bartoletta (Elyria, Ohio) and Brittney Reese (Inglewood, California) continue their friendly rivalry in the pit, as the two combine for five of the last six World Championships gold medals. Bartoletta won the gold in Beijing last summer while Reese launched herself on a clutch final jump to take the top podium spot in Portland last month. The field is world-class, however, with six of the top jumpers of the world looking to truly make this a Rio preview.

The women’s shot put will be a near-rematch of the USATF and World Indoor Championships, as World Indoor Champion Michelle Carter (Ovilla, Texas) and Jillian Camarena-Williams (Woodland, California) take to the throwing circle to battle it out for early season supremacy. Camarena-Williams, who finished just outside medal contention for fourth in Portland, is looking to make her third Olympic team alongside Carter.

Join the conversation with USATF on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #DrakeRelays.

Amanda Brooks
Marketing and Communications Manager
USA Track & Field

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