How Well did Drake do Hosting USA Outdoor? by Elliot Denman, note by Larry Eder

LoLo Jones with her fans! photo by

Be careful what you wish for. The facts are that, Drake Stadium is very, very fast.
With world leaders, stadium records and two American records, Drake Stadium and
facility did a great job. The press area was well managed and easy to see the stadium
from, and the Membership area for USATF members were good additions to the meet.
I have to say, having the option of a real brat, chili fries, and catfish was also kind of fun!

I asked Elliot Denman, a long time contributer to American Track & Field and a very thoughtful writer and observer of our sport to give us his thoughts on the event. You will be able to
read them at the conclusion of this introduction.

Ellliot Denman is a long term observer of the sport. A former 50k Olympic Race Walker, Denman has seen the sport grow from the 1940s to today. I asked Elliot at the adidas Grand Prix to write a piece on the US Outdoor-a think piece-on where the sport is, and perhaps, where it should go. I think it is thought provoking. I hope you enjoy it...

Bernard Lagat takes the 5,000 by



    Q. Will the U.S. Outdoor Championships return to Des Moines' Drake University Stadium?

Drake Stadium.jpgD

       (Picture of Drake Relays, April 2010)  

Sometime in the near future? Sometime in the distant future? Ever?

A.    Yes, definitely, maybe.  Could happen, perhaps. A possibility, sure.

Not to waffle on this one, but who knows? 

Not even Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and Field.

Not even Greg Edwards, president and CEO of the Des Moines Area Sports Commission, and Al Lorenzen, the commission's vice president of sports and development.

  Call it the old optimist-pessimist routine: Basically, Drake Stadium, home to the 2010 U.S. Nationals, was half-full. And half-empty.


Lisa Koll versus Amy Begley, an epic 10,000 meters! photo by  

The movers and shakers do know that the NCAA Track and Field Championships are coming to Drake in 2011 and 2012.  But the U.S. Nationals - any year, say 2013 or beyond?

  Nothing but a guessing game.

   Performance-wise, the 2010 Nationals' five-day run at Drake Stadium (June 23-27) was most successful.  In very hot, often very windy conditions.

 Lots of great stuff, of course, happened on that blue Drake track:


Bershawn Jackson runs WL 47.32! photo by

Bershawn (Batman) Jackson sizzled a 47.32 in the 400-meter hurdles.

Greg Nixon blazed a lap in 44.61, Debbie Dunn in 49.64.


David Oliver hurdles 12.93, his PB and WL! photo by

David Oliver blasted out a 12.93 in the 110 highs.


LoLo Jones hurdles 12.69 for victory !photo by

Poster woman/hometown luminary Lori (Lolo) Jones delivered a decisive 12.69 100 hurdles win.

  Lots of great stuff, of course, happened in the field:


Chaunte Howard-Lowe, clearing AR of 2.05, 6-8.75, photo by

Chaunte Lowe high jumped 2.05/ 6-8 3/4, an American record.


Kara Patterson lets her jav fly,66.67/218-9 to #4 World!
photo by

Kara Patterson picked up her favorite spear and sent it on a journey of

66.67/ 218-9, another American record (but you had to take a jaunt out of the stadium to see any of the long throws, all sited on adjacent fields.) .


Jennie Suhr flies over 4.89 meters, or 16-00.25, the world leader! photo by

Jenn (nee Stuczynski) Suhr showed her best form in a year and vaulted 4.89 / 16 feet and half an inch.

 Lots of great stuff happened in both sectors (the track, the field) of Drake Stadium:


Hyleas Fountain put seven events together, and took the world leader in the heptathlon! photo by

Hyleas Fountain did it seven different ways and rolled up 6,735 heptathlon points.   Jake Arnold rallied to beat out super-decavet Tom Pappas.

   Jackson, Nixon, Oliver, Dunn, Lowe, Suhr and Fountain immediately rose to  No.1 positions on the 2010 year list.  Patterson reached fourth place, a relatively exalted position for an American jav-woman.

   And there was lots more to yell and scream for:


Walter Dix, 100m champion, photo by 

Walter Dix (10.04) and Allyson Felix (11.27) dashed great 100s; Wallace Spearmon (19.77) had a super 200 - only to be messed up by the wind gods.

Allyson Felix, 100 meter champs!photo by

Spearmon had a zephyr at his back, but Dix and Felix had it in-the-face.


Wallace Spearmon,wind-aided,19.77!  

Oh, those winds, they showed no favorites.

   The male high jumpers - led by old rivals Jesse Williams and Tora Harris - dealt with gusts and swirls from all directions on Sunday.

  But the female high jumpers - topped, of course, by Lowe - had no such difficulties on Saturday.


Brittany Reese wins the long jump!photo by

The female long jumpers had it both ways.  Winner Brittney Reese's 7.08/ 23-2 ¾ mark was "illegal" but second-placer Lowe's surprise-surprise 6.90 / 22-7 ¾ was perfectly legit.


Dwight Phillips flies through the air, wining the LJ! photo by   

Male LJ king Dwight Phillips had it best of all - his 8.37 / 27-5 ½ winner had a 1.9 reading, one hanging chad on the side of legality.


Anna Pierce overtakes Erin Donahue! photo by

Yes, all these worthies gave it their best shots and delivered a great show.

 Then again, the array of absentees was notable (even with $4,000 checks awaiting winners, along with support stipends.) 

 Sprint superstar Tyson Gay, of course, had a slight injury, thus a very good alibi for sitting it out.  Ever-cautious decathlete Bryan Clay sat it out, too.

    But such others as Terrence Trammell, Chris Solinsky, Angelo Taylor and Lashinda Demus were absentees.

   Attendance figures fell below the expected: announced crowds were 7,124 Thursday, 8,463 Friday, 9,024 Saturday (Lolo's day) and 7,437 getaway Sunday, for a 32,048 total (Wednesday didn't count; it was just junior multis.).   All this in a stadium that seats just under 15,000 and has sold out 45 consecutive last-Saturday-in-April days for the classic Drake Relays.)

   Still, the numbers-checkers did  quick research and discovered that Des Moines 2010 actually did better, fan-wise, than Eugene "Tracktown USA" Oregon in 2009, where the four-day total was 31,000.

  Twenty-five thousand was another number prominently mentioned, as in bucks/dollars/real money.

  That was the check figure awaiting winners of the performance-based Visa bonus.

   Lowe earned her 25 grand beyond question, but lots of questions surrounded the 25 grand Jackson collected.

   The international charts show that David Oliver's 12.93 rates higher than Jackson's 47.32.  But the equivocators stepped in and said that since Oliver had  a 1.7 wind at his back, he had to be downgraded.

   Please let us know: Just how can a "legal" wind be turned into an illegal performance-enhancer?

   These have been very busy days for  Des Moines' own Greg Edwards and Al Lorenzen.

   They saw their many months of diligent preparation pay off for an solid four days of highest-level track and field.  Their volunteers were wonderful folks, their committee people first rate, the nationwide-based officiating crew they brought in was just about flawless.

   Still, given the huge number of track-savvy citizens they know are out there in the general vicinity, they expected better.

  Some explanations could be made and made perfect sense.

   For the three weekends preceding the Nationals, Central Iowa reveled in other major attractions: a big golf tournament, a major auto race, and the nation's biggest-participant triathlon event.  Not only that, the very same weekend the Nationals were raging at Drake Stadium, a gigantic downtown art show was keeping people away.

   The likeliest Edwards-Lorenzen summation of the Nationals' turnout: "good but maybe not good enough."

  To USATF's Doug Logan, "We had many, many great performances but, yeah, attendance was a little lighter than what we had hoped for.

  "The heat (some days into the low 90s) may have been a factor; that art show downtown, too.

  "But the core fans came out and they were knowledgeable and certainly into most events.

  "These are good people here in Des Moines and they put on a good event.

  "First time I ever came out to Des Moines was for the Drake Relays back in 1963, when I was in college (New York's Manhattan College.)

  "We (Logan and some fellow Jaspers) just loaded up the car and drove straight through, 20 hours maybe.

  "We had gone to Penn (Relays) the year before, but we'd heard that Drake was so great, so next year we did it, we came out, just as fans."

    A fan then and now, Logan encouraged the creation of "Member Appreciation Weekend" at Drake, complete with a members-only hospitality tent, prize drawings, autograph sessions, and merchandise discounts.

  The U.S. Nationals return to Oregon's Hayward Field in 2011 (when they become trials for the World Championships in Daegu, Korea) and 2012 (when they are the Trials for London Olympic Games.)

   If a "rotation" of possible future Nationals sites is ever created, Des Moines hopes to be back in the mix. Then again, at this level, it remains a very big guessing game.  Yours may be as good as Doug Logan's, or Greg Edwards's or Al Lorenzen's.


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