DRAKE RELAYS: Harrison upstages hometown hurdler
DES MOINES – Much of the hype for the Drake Relays centered on hometown star Lolo Jones and her London Games rivals, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells.
Queen Harrison upstaged them all.
Harrison ran a world-leading 12.71 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles Saturday to win the marquee event. Harper and Wells finished second and third – just as they did at the 2012 Olympics – and Jones ended up fourth yet again.
While Harper, Wells and Jones were stacked side-by-side in the middle of the track, Harrison started out in the second lane. Jones got out quick thanks to her new seven-step starting technique, but neither she nor anyone else in the field had enough for Harrison.
Harper finished in 12.74. Wells came in at 12.78 and Jones at 12.79 – all four now the top four times in the world so far in this young outdoor season.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster. I haven’t known what it feels like to be in the front since 2010, so I’m learning again what it feels like to be comfortable in the front,” Harrison said. “I’m getting comfortable again with saying ‘I am one of the best in the world and I can be in the front.”
Zusana Hejnova of the Czech Republic cruised to the 400 hurdles title in a world-leading 54.41. Germany’s Bjorn Otto won the men’s pole vault at 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches – while French gold medalist Renaud Lavillenie was tied for third – and Reese Hoffa took the shot put title.
Spain’s Ruth Beitia won the women’s high jump at 6-4 3/4 in her first competition in the U.S.
But once again the focus was on a weary Jones, who capped a week that she acknowledged Saturday has become more work than fun for her.
Jones grew up in Des Moines and has been the public face of the meet for close to a decade. This race was billed as a London Games rematch between her, Harper and Wells – both of whom were critical of the media attention Jones received at the Olympics – and afterward Jones sounded as though she was ready for a break from her hometown meet.
Jones has not won at the Drake Relays in her last four tries.
“I thought I got out pretty good, and then, I’m just not race sharp now, so I did the best I could out there,” Jones said. “A lot of people will be like, ‘Ah, such a disappointment. She got fourth again.’ And to those I say, ‘I work my butt off up there. It was a great field and it was a great race for me.'”
Wells downplayed any notion that she and Jones have residual animosity from London, adding that the two have since cleared the air privately.
In fact, Wells said she had a blast competing against Jones in her hometown – a true rarity for any elite track and field athlete.
“People can say how they think I feel about Lolo. But I really believe that she gets so much love from here, and I know it’s wonderful for her. I appreciate it, just to see that people supported her from the beginning all the way until now – good or bad. So I like that.”
Hejnova, who won bronze in London, broke the stadium record despite less than ideal conditions for sprinters.
“I expected a little bit better time. It was windy and that’s not good for our event, but I’m happy I broke the stadium record,” Hejnova said.
Hoffa also took the world lead with a mark of 71-2 3/4. Nick Willis also set a world best for 2013, beating a field that included Kenyan Boa Leland to take the men’s mile in 3:55.70.
Willis fell 4 seconds short of Alan Web’s record, but he had enough of a cushion to enjoy his final strides.
“When I realized I wasn’t in range in getting the record I sort of enjoyed the last 400 meters a little bit. You don’t get those opportunities to savor it very often, so I wanted to make the most of it,” Willis said.