Drake Relays finds new home for popular pole vault event

The Drake Relays pole vault is leaping out of the mall and landing on Court Avenue.

Relays officials announced Tuesday that the fan-favorite event, held at Jordan Creek Town Center for several years, will be moved to Court Avenue between Third and Fourth streets in the vicinity of restaurants and bars — a road better known for hosting the Downtown Farmers Market.

The event has kicked off the Drake Relays with a flair. Fans have lined the vault runway and clapped and cheered feet away from the jumpers.

“Wednesday typically was an opportunity for us to gather around center court at Jordan Creek — not this year,” Drake Relays director Brian Brown said. “We’re going to move it to Court Avenue and have a street vault.”

The popular indoor pole vault competition included Olympians and the men’s world record holder.

The pole vault will be held April 22. Olympic gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie of France, last year’s men’s champ, is expected to compete.

Brown said he expects the evening event will attract downtown office workers and families who can mix a world-class athletic experience with a meal or beverage.

Events on Drake’s track will be held April 23-25. Officials are lining up an all-star field of athletes ranked in the top 10 in the world.

The Relays have so far received commitments from three athletes rated No. 1 in the world: Lavillenie in the pole vault, Pascal Martinot-Lagarde in the men’s 110 hurdles and LaShawn Merritt in the men’s 400 hurdles.

Other items of note:

The Beautiful Bulldog contest will be moved to the Sunday before the Relays and will be held at the Knapp Center.

A women’s 800 will be held April 24. The field includes Ajee Wilson, who is ranked No. 2 in the world, and Brenda Martinez, who is ranked No. 3.

The Drake Relays has had thousands of events in 105 years, but never something like this.

A special 200 meters April 24 will feature a paralympic field of single- and double-amputee runners as well as a blind athlete, several of whom are world-record holders. They’ll run against each other in the same race on Drake’s blue oval.

Seven runners have committed to the race. The amputees race with prosthetic blades and the blind athlete uses a guide runner.

The single-leg amputees, who are from Germany and the U.S., are classified as T44 runners. Kenyan Marko Cheseto, a double amputee, competes in T43 class. Blind sprinter David Brown runs in the T11 category.

It’s rare to have such a blend of athletes competing in the same race. Brown told Relays Director Brian Brown he’s eager for the challenge.

“(He said) I want to be in the mix,” Brian Brown said. “Put me near the other guys.”

Brian Brown said he hopes the athletes will be able to inspire local youths to compete despite physical barriers.



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