May 2, 2016
DES MOINES, Iowa – The 107th edition of the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee thrilled nearly 40,000 fans over four days of action with tremendous performances across all divisions. A total of 11 Drake Relays records were broken or tied and three world-leading marks were established. On Monday, May 2, the best of those performances were honored with the announcement of the Relays Most Outstanding Performers.
Of this year’s honorees, three are past winners who once again rose above the tremendous competition on the Blue Oval to be recognized as the best of the best from the latest installment of ‘America’s Athletic Classic.’
Those winners include Kirani James as the Maury White Award winner, Jenny Simpson as the women’s invitational/collegiate Most Outstanding Performer, Dowling Catholic’s Ryan Schweizer as the Robert Kramme Award winner and Pleasant Valley’s Carly Donahue as the recipient of the Gerry Cooley Award.
For the second-straight year, Olympic gold medalist Kirani James has been named the Maury White Award winner. The award is given annually to the top performer from the men’s invitational and collegiate divisions. James, who was a co-winner in 2015, earned the honor by breaking his own Drake Relays record in the Rio Olympic Games Preview men’s 400 meters. The Grenadian made his trip around the Blue Oval in 44.02 to better his previous Relays’ record of 44.22. James time is the fastest in the world this season and the second-fastest outdoor 400 meters ever run before May 1.
“I’m happy with my time, my performance and I’ve always had a great experience at Drake,” James said minutes after his record setting performance. “It shows I’m in great shape and how competitive the field is that it takes a time like that to win.”
The voting for the women’s collegiate/invitational Drake Relays Most Outstanding performer also gave the nod to a past winner in Jenny Simpson. Simpson dazzled the crowd with a stellar performance in the women’s Rio Olympic Games Preview 1,500 meters.
A World Champion in the event, Simpson ran a world-leading time, crossing the line in 4:06.44. The Webster City, Iowa, native’s win was her eighth at Drake Stadium in nine tries, as she’s won the last four invitational 1500 meters at the Drake Relays.
“I was facing a lot of women that have been racing more than I have this year, I knew I was going to have to take control of it and make it an honest last lap,” Simpson said of topping the field. “It means more every year because this is the one meet of the season a lot of my family can come cheer for me.”
Simpson previously garnered Most Outstanding Performer honors in 2013 and 2011. She joins nine-time Olympic medalist Merlene Ottey as the only three-time winner of the award.
The high school competitions produced record-setting performances as they have for generations at Drake Stadium, but there was a pair that were near unanimous selections for Most Outstanding Performer.
Dowling Catholic’s Ryan Schweizer was the runaway vote getter for the Robert Kramme Award, given to the top boys high school competitor.
Schweizer added to his Drake Relays tally by winning the 1,600 meters in a time of 4:14.65 after breaking his own Drake Relays record in the 800 meters with a time of 1:51.76 on Friday. Those wins marked the second time he has swept those events as he became the first athlete ever to win both the 800 and 1,600 meters in consecutive years. He ended his high school Drake Relays career with a total of five titles.
“The Drake Relays is a big event, and going into it, it’s very mental,” Schweizer said. “So it’s about getting over that mental barrier with yourself and knowing you’re prepared with all the years of training and to come away with two more titles is exactly what I was looking for.”
For the second-straight year, a hurdler is the recipient of the Gerry Cooley Award, given to the high school girls most outstanding performer. Carly Donahue, a senior from Pleasant Valley, became just the third athlete to sweep the girls hurdles at the Drake Relays. She won the 400-meter hurdles in 1:02.13 and the 100-meter hurdles in 14.38 after running 14.34 in the preliminary heats.
She also helped the Spartans win their first shuttle hurdle relay in a Drake Relays record time of 1:02.39, a time that also ranks second all-time in Iowa state history and closed the meet by leading off Pleasant Valley’s championship 4×400-meter relay team.
“I’ve been going after this particular white flag for two years now,” Donahue said after claiming the 400-meter hurdle title. “To finally secure it and get the Drake title in this event is amazing.”
The 107th Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee featured the 51st consecutive Saturday sellout with 14,504 fans crowded around the Blue Oval after nearly 20,000 fans streamed through the gates during the two Friday sessions. The 108th edition of America’s Athletic Classic is scheduled for April 26–May 29, 2017.
2016 Drake Relays Most Outstanding Performers
Maury White Award (Collegiate/Invitational Men) – Kirani James
Collegiate/Invitational Women – Jenny Simpson
Robert Kramme Award (High School Boys) – Ryan Schweizer, Dowling Catholic
Gerry Cooley Award (High School Girls) – Carly Donahue, Pleasant Valley