DES MOINES – NIACC track and field athletes will now be able to compete in the Drake Relays.
This year’s 104th Drake Relays are set for April 24-28 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
NIACC, Iowa Central, Iowa Western and Southwestern of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference are now eligible to compete in the college division in one of the United States’ most recognizable track and field meets. Portion’s of this year’s Drake Relays will be broadcast on ESPN2.
“It’s one of those things where it’s right in our backyard,” NIACC track and field coach Curtis Vais said. “We’ve had athletes that ran at the Drake Relays in high school and they host the state meet also.
“It stings when they don’t allow athletes in and I’m very happy that we’re in now. If there’s anything, I kind of feel for the athletes that have been here in the past that would have competed very well down there but weren’t given the opportunity. I’m just glad that we can now move forward.”
Iowa Central assistant coach Ryan Sanders said Drake Relays director Brian Brown pushed for the annual relays to finally allow Iowa junior college athletes to compete in the annual relays, which attracts Olympic-caliber athletes each year.
“Brian really set the charge for this whole thing,” Sanders said. “I’m so thankful and I know all of the other ICCAC teams are as well. (Brian) has been trying for a few years for this to happen and it’s finally happening.”
ICCAC commissioner Thom McDonald said he’s excited that the ICCAC track and field athletes finally get a chance to compete in the prestigious event.
“This opportunity took a lot of collaboration from the Drake administration and the Relays itself, along with the determination and commitment from our ICCAC track and field institutions,” McDonald said. “This has been about an eight-year process, so we had a lot of different people involved to get this decision to allow our student-athletes and coaches to participate in the Drake Relays. The Drake Relays are a fantastic event and we feel very fortunate to be able to participate.”
McDonald said Iowa Central’s James Kersten, vice president of external affairs and government relations, played a big part in allowing athletes from the ICCAC to compete at the Drake Relays.
“A special thanks to James Kersten for his help in continuing the discussion and final decision from Drake University and the Drake Relays for our student athletes and institutions to participate.”
Vais, who started the NIACC track and field program in 2006, said the ICCAC was persistent in asking Drake officials to be able to qualify for the Drake Relays.
“We’ve pushed for it ever since we’ve started track and field in the conference,” Vais said. “Every year, we’ve contacted them about allowing our athletes into the Drake Relays.
“We’ve received some various reasons why they wouldn’t allow us into the Drake Relays. Our conference is very competitive. When we get to the national meet, all our teams really compete well. “
Athletes will have to meet the Drake Relays’ standards to qualify each year.
“So if we get athletes in, they deserve to be down there,” Vais said. “I’m excited for the athletes, not just ours but the conference.”
Note – William Musgrove of the ICCAC contributed to this release.