Men’s track psyched for Drake, hoping for wins

BY ZACH SMITH | APRIL 23, 2009 7:29 AM

For one three-day period toward the end of April each year, the eyes of the track and field world center on Des Moines.

And while the state’s capital is home to the host Drake University, the Hawkeyes are treating the 100th edition of the Drake Relays as a home meet.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting weekend [for our program],” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “We’re going to be competing in a lot of areas with a lot of people.”

For most of Iowa’s athletes competing in the Drake Relays, it will be another chance to display their talents on a big stage and, at the same time, represent the state of Iowa.

Senior John Hickey will make his second and final appearance as a Hawkeye, hoping to improve on his second place finish from a year ago (60-31⁄4).

Similarly, A.J. Curtis will also make his final appearance at the Drake Relays. After placing third in the shot put last year with a throw of 57-113⁄4 and finishing 10th in the discus, the senior is hoping to snag a pair of individual titles in his third trip to Des Moines.

Curtis and Hickey have only competed in the Drake Relays at the collegiate level, though.

For a handful of other Hawkeyes who are natives to the state, however, this year will be an opportunity to perform against the rest of the nation, rather than the rest of the state in the high-school competition.

With this meet being televised nationally on ESPN2, how will these young athletes handle the pressure of being on the national stage?

“[The Drake Relays] are always a special thing for the Iowa kids because they really understand it and really appreciate it,” Wieczorek said. “People are cheering for everyone in a Hawkeye uniform. I could put on a Hawkeye uniform and jog out there a little bit, and I’d get some cheers, you know, it’s special in that way.

“It’s the Hawkeye State, and we’re the Hawkeyes.”

Ryan Lamparek — who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Friday — was a two-time Drake Relays champion in the boys’ shot put during his days at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School. The redshirt freshman will make his first Drake Relays appearance as a Hawkeye. Redshirt freshman Nick Brayton won the Drake Relays title in the boys’ discus for Iowa City West. Junior Adam Hairston won the boys’ mile as a senior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

But Iowa’s connections to the Drake Relays extend beyond competitors. Assistant coach Joey Woody is the only athlete in Drake Relays history to win the Athlete of the Meet award in high school (1992) and college (1994). Woody was inducted into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame in 2002.
So what is it like for Woody to be coaching rather than competing?

“It’s a three-day event compared to when I was competing, I only had to focus on one event,” Woody said. “We have every single relay that’s entered except for one. Almost every field event, we’ve got somebody in there. Left and right, everywhere you look there are going to be Hawkeyes competing. That makes it fun because we’re always going to be at the attention of the fans.”

“I’ve been competing there since high school so it’s always been an inspirational meet for me.”

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