Drake Relays: One final leap for Amy Acuff, Derek Miles

In an age when seasoned athletes are raising the standards for longevity, Amy Acuff and Derek Miles are taking one final leap at Olympic glory.

“Baseball is a different thing,” Acuff said. “But I can find examples in my own event.”

Acuff, a 36-year-old high jumper, and Miles, a pole vaulter who will turn 40 in September, hope this week’s Drake Relays serve as a springboard toward this summer’s London Games.

And if they need a little extra push, Acuff and Miles can build from the exploits of Major League Baseball’s Jamie Moyer, who last week became the oldest pitcher to ever win a game — at 49.

“Baseball is a different thing,” Acuff said. “But I can find examples in my own event.”

Tia Hellebaut of Belgium was 30 when she triumphed in the high jump at the 2008 Olympics. Since then, Hellebaut has celebrated the birth of two children and, at the sport-advanced age of 34, finished fifth in this year’s World Indoor Championships.

“There are other examples,” said Acuff, a four-time Olympian still searching for her first medal. “Of people who were in their mid-30s and had sort of a rebirth or renaissance.”

Acuff could add to that list.

The 6-foot-2 native of Port Arthur, Texas, stopped competing in 2009. Her daughter Elsa was born in 2010.

“Definitely, stepping away from the sport for a while gave me a different perspective,” Acuff said. “I don’t feel anxiety or pressure about it. It just feels exciting to me. It’s a real sense of renewal.”

She returned to track and field a month ago, jumping 6-4¾ at the Texas Relays.

“Things are going better now than they have ever gone in my career,” Acuff said. “It seems like a shocking statement. I can’t tell you why, or put my finger on it necessarily.”

Miles will compete Wednesday in the mall pole vault at Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines.

Tim Mack was just weeks away from his 32nd birthday when he won pole vault gold at the 2004 Olympics. Sergey Bubka, a Ukrainian who may have been the greatest vaulter in history, won a World Championships title at 33.

Miles maintains a youthful passion for his event, especially as he prepares for the atmosphere at Jordan Creek.

“Imagine if you were a kid and running down a hallway,” Miles said. “It always seemed like you were moving faster, because the walls were right next to you. That’s kind of the way we feel when you go down a crowd like that.

“You have so many people around you … You feel like there is more energy. It kind of raises your level of intensity.”

Miles was among the top U.S. vaulters throughout the past decade, earning a spot on the Olympic team in 2004 and winning the U.S. Trials in 2008.

He missed winning a medal at the Beijing Games, finishing fourth.

“I still have the same expectations of myself that I did five, six years ago,” said Miles, who owns a personal best of 19-2½.

“As you get a little older, it gets a little bit more difficult to run the same speed you used to be able to, and be as powerful.

“But if I didn’t truly feel like I could run out there and jump 19-plus, then I would be done.”

Acuff was inducted into the Drake Relays hall of fame in 2007, and was named among Drake’s athletes of the century during a centennial celebration in 2009.

So what prompted a comeback?

“In the beginning, I didn’t have a good answer,” Acuff said. “I started working out and realizing that maybe what you build up in training doesn’t just go away very easily.

“So I was kind of surprised at my own abilities and fitness level after a real short time.”


The third annual Grand Blue Mile begins with races at 6 Tuesday night, including women’s and men’s elite competition starting at 7:15.

Olympian Alan Webb won the men’s title a year ago in 4:08.22. Sara Hall won the women’s in 4:45.78.

Individuals can register until race time, with a $40 fee for adults, $25 for youth. Chip timing will provide half-mile splits, with individual on-site and on-line results.

More than $5,000 in awards and prizes will be distributed.

The course begins near 13th Street and Locust and ends at Grand Avenue and 13th.


Retrieved from:|head

Derek Miles


Leave A Comment