‘The Sky’s the Limit’ in downtown Des Moines

Featured Post by Duff McFadden

Since April 2010, downtown Des Moines has played a distinct role in the week-long Drake Relays Presented by Hy-Vee, by hosting the Grand Blue Mile. This annual event, run through the streets of downtown Des Moines over a U-shaped course, begins at the intersection of 17th and Locust and finishes at the corner of 3rd and Lo¬cust.

This year will be no different, as the April 21 event again features races such as the Iowa Kidstrong Fun Run (6 p.m.), Recreational Division (6:15 p.m.), Mascot Madness Charity Challenge (6:35 p.m.), Women’s Competitive Division (6:45 p.m.), Men’s Competitive Division (7 p.m.), Women’s Invitational Championship (7:15 p.m.) and Men’s Invitational Championship (7:30 p.m.).

However, in 2015, the “Sky is the Limit” as track and field aficionados now have the opportunity to enjoy a distinctive downtown experience. Drake’s Pole Vault in the Mall, traditionally held at Jordan Creek Town Center the past five years, won’t actually be held indoors, or in a mall at all.

Instead, Court Avenue will serve as outdoor host for the men’s and women’s “Street Vault” on April 22, beginning at 5:15 p.m.

Drake Relays director Brian Brown was informed by Jordan Creek officials the mall site wouldn’t be available this year, since software giant Microsoft has a kiosk where the runway would traditionally be situated. Next year, Jordan Creek officials promise, the event can resume at the West Des Moines mall.

The way I see it, Jordan’ Creek’s loss is downtown’s gain – even if it’s only for a one-night stand.
Logistically, it’ll take a bit of work to turn Court Avenue, between 3rd and 4th Streets, into a world-class pole vault venue. Once completed, however, fans will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the best men and women pole vaulters in the world flex their fiberglass.
On the men’s side, Olympic gold medalist and Jordan Creek champion Renaud Lavillenie of France is expected to compete, as are Americans Mark Hollis, Sam Kendricks and Brad Walker. On the women’s side, World No. 2 and 2014 Relays woman champion Yarisley Silva of Cuba will return. World record holder and World third-ranked Jenn Suhr (USA), Katerin Stefanidi (Greece), Mary Saxer (USA) and Marion Lotout (France) will also be there.

Actually, downtown Des Moines has long had a foothold, so to speak, in Drake Relays activities. One annual event that captured the imagination of track fans during the late 1930’s was the Bellhop Relay.

At least four of the Des Moines hotels would enter four-man teams featuring their fastest bellhops in this 440-yard relay event. Beginning at the Savory Hotel, contestants, dressed in the bellhop uniforms of their respective hotel, would run their 110-yard leg. They would then pass off the baton, or in this case, a suitcase, to the next runner.

According to the May 4, 1940 issue of the University of Illinois’ Daily Illini, “Because this is the only race of its kind in the world a new record is set for the 440-yard course almost every year and Saturday’s race was no exception.”

They go on to add, “What the event lacks in speed, it makes up for in color.”

The 106th Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee are set for April 22-26.

See you there!