Iowa History Daily: On April 10, 1910, final preparations came together for runners to take their marks at the inaugural Drake Relays in Des Moines. A world-class track and field competition known as “America’s Athletic Classic,” the event continues to draw large annual crowds as athletes compete on the iconic big blue oval.
Drake Athletic Director John Griffin conceived of a track and field competition featuring local college and high school athletes at the university’s Haskins Field. In the first year, athletes from Drake, Simpson, Earlham Academy, Highland Park college, and several area high schools participated. Only around 100 dedicated spectators witnessed 82 athletes perform in snowy conditions during the first year’s events.
The event rapidly grew after the inaugural run in 1910, and the following year over 300 runners represented 78 teams. The first world record set at the meet occurred in 1914, and by 1922 over 10,000 spectators and the event expanded to two days. In 1926, Drake Stadium rose over Des Moines to host the nationally famous contents.
In 1935, Jesse Owens dominated at the Drake Relays, and late quipped “there is something special about the Drake Relays. To me, it’s the bigness and the smallness.” Wilma Rudolph competed in the 100 meters as the event hosted women’s events for the first time. In the wake of Owens and Rudolph, hundreds of Olympians spent time on the ‘big blue oval’ while taking part in Iowa’s most iconic track & field competition. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar