Drake Relays Preview: Talk About Tremendous Early Season Matchups – Ajee vs Brenda vs Chanelle vs Alysia for $20,000, Kirani James vs Lashawn Merritt @ 400, Leo vs Centro in the Mile
April 23, 2015
Two years ago, thanks to a huge financial commitment from supermarket chain Hy-Vee, Drake started offering big money ($25,000) to winners of select races and ever since then the stars of the sport in the designated events have been descending upon Drake. Forget about ducking someone, money talks and the fans benefit with some sensational early season matchups. This year the winners of the designated events get $20,000 and the stars are back in force (for reference, Diamond League event winners only get $10,000) once again.
This year Friday’s premier “Beijing WC Preview” events are the men’s 110m hurdles, the men’s 400m, the men’s 400m hurdles and the women’s 800m.
Saturday the “Beijing WC Preview” events are the men’s pole vault, men’s triple jump, women’s high jump, women’s 100 hurdles, and women’s 400m hurdles. There also is a strong men’s mile that will pit Leo Manzano vs. Matt Centrowitz and others and a women’s 1500m. Unfortunately, start lists for Saturday’s events aren’t out yet (and people wonder why the sport isn’t more popular) so we’ll preview just the great action on Friday below.
The highlight Friday night is without a doubt the women’s 800m as the field is TREMENDOUS – better than an Olympic Trials final – and we preview it first and then all the Friday Beijing WC events. The meet will be streamed for free on USATF.TV from 8-9:30 p.m. Eastern (and will be on TV on Universal Sports from 8-9 p.m., but the women’s 800m is at 9 so you will miss that if you only watch TV). It will also be streamed from 1:30-3:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday and have TV coverage on NBC Sports Network from 3-5 p.m. Eastern.
Drake Relays TV (all times Eastern)
Friday, April 24 – 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Universal Sports/USATF.TV
Saturday, April 25 – 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. – USATF.TV
Saturday, April 25 – 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – NBCSN
Saturday, April 25 – 5:00 p.m. – The Cool Down on USATF.TV
(The rest of the meet is offered for a fee. Drake offers it for $10 a day or all three days of action for $20. No commitment required. Sign up here.)
Prize money for the Beijing WC track events is 1st $20,000, 2nd $10,000, 3rd $7000, 4th $3000. For field events the amount is cut in half.
Friday’s Pro Events:
9:00 p.m. Eastern – Women’s 800m: Ajee Wilson vs. Brenda Martinez vs. Chanelle Price vs. Alysia Montano vs. a Slew of Stud Americans
The U.S. is the world’s best at the women’s 800 and America’s best will square off here for $20,000. Ajee Wilson, world #2 last year and possibly the future of this event, will have her hands full with 2013 Worlds bronze medallist Brenda Martinez, 2014 World indoor champion and 2015 world leader Chanelle Price, and Alysia Montano (who three times has been top-five at Worlds/Olympics) who runs her first competitive 800m since returning from childbirth last year.
Coming into the outdoor season, we thought to ourselves, “Wow by rule, one of the following four superstars will be left off of the 2015 Worlds team – Martinez, Price, Montano, and Wilson – that’s crazy.” And here in the first race of the season, we get to see how they stack up against each other. And the field has other studs in it including Olympian Morgan Uceny and two-time Team USA World Championships member Maggie Vessey.
Wilson is our slight favorite but this one is wide-open. Chanelle Price is the 2015 world leader at 2:00.62, Martinez ran a world #2 2:00.83 to win Mt. SAC last weekend, and Wilson tuned up with a 2:01.09 win at Princeton last weekend. This field is sick and includes collegiate leader Shelby Houlihan.
LRC Prediction: We’re going to enjoy this one – that’s all we’ll say. This is an AMAZING FIELD. Be sure you enjoy it as a track fan as this is the type of race people clamor for when people wonder why the sport isn’t more popular. Thank you Hy-Vee and Drake.
|2||Shelby Houlihan||Arizona State|
|4||Brenda Martinez||New Balance|
|9||Latavia Thomas||HS International|
|10||Alysia Montano||NYAC Asics|
|12||Sarah Brown||New Balance|
8:13 p.m. Eastern – Men’s 110 m Hurdles: Three In All-Time Top 10 vs. Ashton Eaton
Three of the top 10 all-time in the world square off as world record holder Aries Merritt tries to get back on top versus 2014 world leader Hansle Parchment of Jamaica and 2013 World Champ David Oliver. Decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton will try and spoil the hurdlers’ party.
8:24 p.m. Eastern – Men’s 400m: Kirani James vs LaShawn Merritt Round 1
The 400m is one of the best events right now because stars Kirani James and LaShawn Merritt aren’t afraid to race each other. Last year they raced three times with and all three times were memorable. James won in Lausanne in a world-leading 43.74 to Merritt’s #2 43.90. At Pre they both ran 43.97 with James getting the win. The good news for Merritt fans is his one win over James was at Drake in 44.44.
|3||Yousef Al-Masrahi||Saudi Arabia|
8:36 p.m. Eastern – Men’s 400m Hurdles: 2014 World #1 and #2 Battle
2014 world leader Javier Culson and world #2 Michael Tinsley along with #3 Cornell Fredericks dominated the 2014 world lists. Culson and Tinsley square off here as U.S. veterans Bershawn Jackson and Kerron Clement try and show they are still a force.
|8||Annsert Whyte||Racers TC|
Women’s Pole Vault
|1||Melissa Gergel||Team Pacer|
|3||Katie Nageotte||Team Pacer|
|8||Mary Saxer||New York Athletic Club|
|10||Demi Payne||Stephen F. Austin|
Men’s High Jump: Erik Kynard vs Jesse Williams vs Derek Drouin
|4||Guowei Zhang||Nike China|
|5||Bryan McBride||Arizona State|
|8||Ricky Robertson||World Express|
|12||Robbie Grabarz||Great Britain|
|16||Erik Kynard||Air Jordan|
Saturday the “Beijing WC Preview” events are the men’s pole vault, men’s triple jump, women’s high jump, women’s 100m hurdles, and women’s 400m hurdles. There also is a strong men’s mile that will pit we believe Leo Manzano vs. Matt Centrowitz (start lists are not out yet) and others and a women’s 1500m. Drake had a road mile earlier this week and Centro got the win over Manzano so clearly Centro is the favorite on the track. In addition to who wins, a big question is can they take down Alan Webb‘s meet record of 3:51.71?