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DES MOINES -- The University of Arkansas is trying to steal the track and field thunder of the Drake and Penn Relays.

In a previous track and field life, Texas, Drake and Kansas formed a triple header in the sport rivaled only, in same ways, by the Penn Relays.

Athletes and teams strived to reign supreme with sweeps on the Texas-Drake-Kansas circuit.

The competition, though, has gone the way of 6-10 high jumps, 48-second 400s and 2-flat half-miles.

Kansas, for starters, if pretty much a college quadrangular and pre-state high school meet. Texas is as faded as a burnt orange singlet.

Drake and Penn stand taller than ever, but there is an interloper and officials of the two track and field carnivals aren't real happy with the newest elephant under the big sky of outdoor track and field.

While Drake wrapped up a glorious and sun-drenched weekend here, the new National Relay Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., attempted to lure away traditional appearances by schools and athletes in Des Moines and Philadelphia.

Schools, like Arkansas Baylor, Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami (Fla.), Oklahoma State, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas ditched Drake and Penn.

It remains if Arkansas can create the spirit of Drake, especially.

The comparisons of all the big events scheduled in the past within days of each other will continue and Drake, if the weekend is considered, will continue to more thatn hold its own.

The weather, of course, will weigh heavily on the hearty souls of athletes and the purse strings of rich and famous athletic departments.

Bringing professional athletes to meets like Drake is not a bargain in most cases. And, you need showcase events with pros many times to lure American's and the world's best.

#Kudos to Morningside's Kati Kneifl, the women's javelin throw winner at Drake.

She became the school's first women's winner at Drake since the school seriously offered the sport of track and field sometime in the 1970s, although officials really aren't certain.

The former Sheldon prep sailed the spear a school-record 152 feet, 2 inches.

She won the event at the 2017 Sioux City Relays, but weather wiped out the event this spring.

Kneifl's victory was the first by a Morningside athlete in over 25 years.

Morngside's 4x200 men's relay foursome clocked 1:26.30 in winning the Drake Relays event in 1992.

Keep in mind that that Drake runs separate university and college division relays and Oklahoma won the university 4x2 in 1992 in 1:21.95.

Also, for many years, Drake held a separate division (the Iowa Colllege Division) for the state's small colleges and Morningside won more than a few times in those days.

#Interestingly enough, until Kniefl made it official with her javelin championship, Morningside could claim an individual running champion on the famous blue oval previous to 2018 -- sort of.

800-meter standout Gina DeWitt, the Sioux City Relays college women's most valuable athlete in 1993 when she won the 800 in record time in a Morningside uniform, was the Drake Relays women's 800-meter champ in

1995 with a 2:09.1 -- wearing a Drake uniform.

After earning NCAA Division II All-America honors at Morningside, the first woman to do so in NCAA Division II track, DeWitt transferred to Drake.

She still holds the Morningside school record in the 800 of 2:08.64 and the Drake school record of 2:05.39 set in 1996.

#Three Siouxlanders own Drake University school records in track and field.

Cherokee's Tammi Blackstone, now a Des Moines attorney, was a basketball and track standout at Cherokee High School and at Drake, too.

She still holds the Drake school record in the discus with a spin of 158-11 in 1997.

East High graduate Pat Hansel anchored Drake to a 3:07.8 clocking in the 4x400 relay way back in 1965 and that mark still stands as a school record.

The foursome of Gary Ladewig, Karl Bandemer, Charles Winkenwerder and Hansel also set the Sioux City Relays record iin the event in 1965 and that mark stood until Augustana ran 3:11.81 in 1995.

Paul Allard, a graduate of Jefferson (S.D.) High School, shares the Drake high jump record of 7-2.75 set in 1977.

At the time it was one of the top 20 jumps in the world.

Sad to report, Pat and Paul passed away in January of 2017, Allard at age 60 in Encinitas, Calif., and Hansel at 73 in Sioux City.

#Discus spins.

Melanie Heitman, a former assistant commissioner of the old North Central Conference, was a high school senior in Williamsburg, Iowa, when she was invited to compete in the first Drake Relays college women's discus event in 1979 and, by golly, won with a throw of 150 feet , 1 inch.

Like Kneifl, Heitman is a Drake Relays javelin winner, taking the university-college watch in 1980 with a throw of 139-11.5 for Iowa State in 1980.

Maurice-Orange City grad Rachel Jansen is proof positive when it comes to hard work and determination.

Jansen was the Drake Relays girls prep champ in the discus with a throw of 138-4 in the 2003.

Then, in 2007 she was the Drake university/college women's champ with a throw of 181 feet, 2 inches while competing for Northern Iowa.

#While on the subject of Drake Relays rarities, the only non-Iowa prep to ever compete at Drake was distance runner Rudy Chapa. who set the national high school record of 28 minutes, 32 seconds in the 10,000 meters in 1976 while running for Hammond (Ind.) High School.

That standard is obviously the Drake Stadium for a prep 10K. Iowa preps don't run the event.

Chapa, a 3:57.04 miler at the University of Oregon, later clocked a 2:11.13 debut marathon in 1983.

#The thought lingered for three days. Would Iowa State's Allen Lazard be destined to be the National Football League's 2018 Draft Mr. Irrelavant -- the last player selected.

No honor there, though.

Lazard, ISU's career pass reception leader, signed a free agent deal with Jacksonville.

The only Iowa collegian with the exalted Mr. Irrelevant title is Andy Stokes, who starred at William Penn University and picked last by the New England Patriots in 2005.


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