Women’s track team tries to keep perspective going into Drake Relays


Photo: Grace Steenhagen/Iowa State Daily

Freshman distance runner Maddy Becker opens for her team in the distance medley relay in the ISU Open on Friday, Jan. 20, at Lied Recreation Athletic Center. Her team finished in fifth place with a time of 12.18.20.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

Almost anyone who lives in Iowa knows the Drake Relays is one of the most storied sporting events in the country.

For those athletes on the ISU women’s track-and-field team who are from Iowa, they will get to live the Iowan track athlete’s dream when they compete at the Drake Relays this weekend.

Redshirt freshman Maddy Becker will not get the chance to compete at Drake this weekend. However, the Cedar Rapids native said she has competed in the Drake Relays before and it was an experience worth remembering.

“I competed there my junior and senior year [of high school],” Becker said. “It was really fun because they put all of the classes together.”

Putting the classes together meant Becker was able to run with now-fellow teammates Morgan Casey and Katy Moen. The three had planned to come to Iowa State while still in high school, so the race at Drake was special for them.

Becker said the Drake Relays is not like just any other meet. With some of the most elite colleges competing at America’s Athletic Classic, the competition will be a step up.

“It’s a little more competitive and there’s always a big crowd there,” Becker said. “They play drums and it just gets really exciting.”

On the tails side of the Drake Relays coin, there are athletes on the ISU track team from states other from Iowa. Even though the state may not host one of the largest collegiate and professional meets in the nation, word of the Drake Relays still travels.

Minnetonka, Minn., native Emily Meese said she hadn’t heard a lot about the Drake Relays while she was in high school. Once she arrived in Iowa, however, that all changed.

“I have been to it the last couple years,” Meese said. “Last year at this time, I was on crutches, and my freshman year I was a redshirt. But I have been to it and it’s pretty cool to go.”

Since this is her first year competing at the event, Meese said she is excited to see what it brings to the table.

“I think it’s really cool that people are wanting to celebrate track and what that is,” Meese said. “The coolest part about it is how much they support the high schools.”

Meese said her roommate from her freshman year wouldn’t talk about anything other than the Drake Relays, so that has given her curious hopes for her first competition there.

Coach Corey Ihmels has been where his athletes are now. A past Drake Relays champion himself for Iowa State, Ihmels has competed against the professional athletes of the track-and-field world.

Ihmels said his athletes are prepared enough to handle that kind of spotlight and they will be able to keep themselves composed around the professionals.

“We prepare [athletes] to be in situations like that, where they are at a meet like that and they’re around professionals,” Ihmels said. “But it doesn’t change what you’re doing. You still have to go through the motions of what you do every day.”

Ihmels said being able to remain composed, going through pre-meet stretches and getting the job done on the track will help the athletes accomplish the goals they set.

Winning a Drake Relays title is something Ihmels said was a highlight accomplishment for him in his career. However, he stressed that the athletes can’t make this meet bigger than the ones they have coming up.

“The feeling of carrying that white flag around with an Iowa State uniform on, that’s pretty cool,” Ihmels said. “But you’ve got to keep it in perspective. It’s a great event, but it’s not the NCAAs or the Big 12s.”

The Drake Relays kicked off Wednesday evening with pole vaulting at Jordan Creek Town Center and will conclude Saturday night with the men’s 4×400-meter relays.

Be sure to catch Iowa native and Olympian Lolo Jones as she competes in the women’s 100-meter hurdles at 3:07 p.m. Saturday.