A landmark sponsorship deal with Hy-Vee will enable the Drake Relays to become a pacesetter in prize money.
Officials announced the five-year agreement Wednesday that will allow the annual Des Moines track and field meet to offer a purse of more than half a million dollars.
“It wasn’t a move to keep up,” Relays director Brian Brown said. “It was a move to elevate what we do.”
The arrangement with Hy-Vee will bring the following benefits, starting in 2013:
A total of 16 medalists from the summer Olympics in London have already committed to compete, including men’s 400-meter hurdles champion Felix Sanchez and women’s pole vault winner Jenn Suhr.
They will be competing in a series dubbed “London Rematches,” with a $50,000 purse for running events and $25,000 for field events.
It is the largest amount awarded in the United States.
— Friday and Saturday sessions of the Relays will be featured on ESPN2, with 90 minutes of programming reaching nearly 100 million homes.
— A scoring system will be established for men’s and women’s relay races in the university divisions, with the winning team earning the Hy-Vee Champions Cup.
— A total of $120,000 will be awarded to the top finishers in the Wellmark Grand Blue Mile, 10-kilometer race, half-marathon, as well as a new 6-kilometer race.
— Road races will take place on Sunday and finish in Drake Stadium.
“We just felt like it’s a natural fit,” said Randy Edeker, the CEO and president of Hy-Vee Inc., “to come alongside something that’s a very iconic event and help it become even bigger.”
The Hy-Vee sponsorship affirms the Relays’ status as one of the nation’s premier track and field meets.
From the perspective of elite athletes such as hurdler Dawn Harper, it’s a chance to perform at an International level event in America.
“Honestly, it means the world,” Harper said. “We look for good competition. When we train, we don’t look to go out there and run against people who are a second slower.
“We want to race against the best, and to actually have it at home … to know you’re going to have family members come out and see me, it’s very important.”
Suhr echoed those thoughts, via skype:
“Competing in London was awesome. It was great to be over there,” she said. “But to come back and compete in the United States, be in areas I enjoy being in — I had so much fun (in Des Moines) last year.”
The 104th edition of the Relays will be held April 24-27, and this year’s entry list may be the most impressive in recent memory.
“It’s still November and we’re well down the road,” Brown said. “This is a game changer.”
2012 Olympians confirmed to compete at the 2013 Drake Relays
MEN’s 400 METERS
The men’s 400-meter field currently features the 2012 Olympic silver and bronze medalists, as well as the inspiring Oscar Pistorious.
Luguelin Santos – Silver Medalist
A native of the Dominican Republic, Santos earned a silver medal in the 400 meters at the London Olympics at the age of 18 with a time of 44.46 for a near personal best. He was also a World Junior Champion in 2012, the first ever for his country, and has the potential to become just the second non-American to break the 44-second mark in the event.
Lalonde Gordon – Bronze Medalist
Gordon took home a bronze medal in the event for his native Trinidad &Tobago at the London games with a personal best of 44.52 and also earned a bronze medal as a member of Trinidad & Tobago’s 4×400-meter relay team.
Oscar Pistorious – Finalist
While he did not medal at the London Olympics, Pistorious was one of the Olympiad’s biggest stories as the South African double-amputee made the finals of the 400 meters on his prosthetic legs as the first amputee runner to even compete in the Olympics.
MEN’S 110-METER HURDLES
The men’s 110-meter hurdles will be a complete rematch of the London Olympics with the gold, silver and bronze medalists all confirmed to compete at the Drake Relays.
Aries Merritt – Gold Medalist
The American won his first Olympic gold medal in the event at the London Games and followed that performance by setting the world record at 12.80 a month later in Brussels. His world record effort saw the biggest drop in the event’s record in more than 30 years.
Jason Richardson – Silver Medalist
Richardson finished just 0.12 behind his fellow American to win a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics after winning the 2011 World Championship in the event.
Hansle Parchment – Bronze Medalist
The Jamaican national record holder in the event, Parchment earned a bronze medal with his record-setting time of 13.12 in the event.
MEN’S 400-METER HURDLES
Another complete London re-match with the London Games’ gold, silver and bronze winner all confirmed to race on the Blue Oval.
Felix Sanchez – Gold Medalist
A two-time gold medalist, Sanchez recently won the gold in London after accomplishing the same feat at the 2004 Olympics. The native of the Dominican Republic is also a two-time world champion in the event and has consistently been one of the most dominant hurdlers in the world for nearly a decade.
Michael Tinsley – Silver Medalist
Tinsley set personal bests at every step along the way to his silver medal in 2012. The American set a personal best at the Olympic trials, the semifinals and finally in his silver medal run. He is no stranger to Drake Stadium having finished third at the 2010 USATF Championships in Des Moines.
Javier Culson – Bronze Medalist
Culson earned a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics after earning a silver medal in the previous two World Championships. His Olympic bronze medal was the first track and field medal ever for Puerto Rico.
MEN’S POLE VAULT
The men’s pole vault field includes both the gold and silver medalists from the 2012 Olympics. Both of them have cleared 19-8 and will compete at both the Pole Vault at the Mall and at Drake Stadium.
Renaud Lavillenie – Gold Medalist
Lavillenie set a new Olympic record with his vault of 19-7 to take home the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. A four-time European Champion, the native of France also has an indoor World Championship gold medal and a pair of outdoor World Championship bronze medals to his credit.
Bjorn Otto – Silver Medalist
Otto finished just behind Lavillenie for his first silver medal in the event just months after winning silver at the indoor World Championships. He capped his outdoor season by jumping a personal best of 19-8.5.
MEN’S TRIPLE JUMP
The triple jump will feature a familiar face at Drake Stadium who recently earned a silver medal in the event.
Will Claye – Silver Medalist
Claye earned a silver medal in the triple jump and a bronze in the long jump at his first Olympics in 2012 after winning a bronze in the triple jump at the 2011 World Championships. The former collegiate star at the University of Florida also posted a second-place finish in the triple jump at the 2011 NCAA Championships at Drake Stadium.
WOMEN’S 100-METER HURDLES
The women’s 100-meter hurdles features two Americans that won silver and bronze at the 2012 Olympics.
Dawn Harper – Silver Medalist
Harper is a two-time American Olympic medalist with a silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles in 2012 with a personal best time of 12.37 after winning gold at the 2008 Beijing games. In 2011 she was the bronze medalist in the event at the World Championships.
Kelly Wells – Bronze Medalist
Wells finished just behind Harper to earn the 100-meter bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics with a personal best of 12.48 after winning the 2011 USATF outdoor championships in the event. In 2010 she was the runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles at the USATF Championships at Drake Stadium.
WOMEN’S POLE VAULT
Reigning Olympic gold medalist and 2012 Drake Relays champion Jenn Suhr reprises her appearance in Des Moines
Jenn Suhr – Gold Medalist
Suhr is a two-time Olympic medalist having won gold last summer after taking home bronze in 2008 and is the current American indoor and outdoor record holder in the event. She is also an 11-time national champion and last season set the Drake Relays record in the event at 15-7 in the Pole Vault and Mall to just narrowly miss the setting her own American indoor record in the event.
Becky Holliday – Olympic Finalist
Holliday advanced to the Olympic finals in London where she finished ninth in the field with the second-best American finish. A seven-time USATF Championships medalist, she won silver in the 2012 and the 2010 event at Drake Stadium where she set her personal best of 15-1.
WOMEN’S LONG JUMP
The women’s long jump field is scheduled to feature a pair of Americans that medaled at the 2012 Olympics
Brittney Reese – Gold Medalist
In addition to winning a gold medal in the long jump at the 2012 Olympics, Reese is a four-time world champion in the event and the American indoor record holder and the first woman to win back-to-back indoor world championships and continued her string of winning every major championship in the event since 2009.
Janay DeLoach – Bronze Medalist
DeLoach is currently ranked second in the world after winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics after winning a silver medal at the 2012 indoor world championships. She is also a two-time USA indoor champion and was the 2011 outdoor runner-up.