DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Lolo Jones has decided to run the Drake Relays after waffling on a return to her hometown meet a year ago.
But rather than compete in the high-profile 100-meter hurdles, Jones will make her transition from the bobsled back to the blue oval in a much more relaxed event.
The two-time Olympic hurdler and 2014 Sochi Games bobsledder will take it relatively easy Friday night when she competes in the shuttle hurdle relay.
Jones will be missing out on quite the main event — one she has lost four times in a row at Drake.
The women’s 100 hurdles could be the premier race of the 105th Drake Relays despite the absence of Jones, who grew up mere miles from Drake Stadium and its famed blue track.
Defending world champion Bri Rollins and Tiffany Porter — who won bronze at the worlds in Moscow last year — will square off against reigning meet champion Queen Harrison and Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells, the respective silver and bronze medalists at the 2012 London Olympics.
On the men’s side, the race to watch will likely be the 400.
Drake has lined up the top three medalists from Moscow; gold medalist LaShawn Merritt, Tony McQuay and Luguelin Santos. Recent London Olympics champion Kirani James, who’s currently ranked second in the world, will also run in Friday night’s sprint.
The men’s 110 and 400 hurdles are also among the high-profile events being billed as Moscow rematches — and both feature impressive fields.
Ryan Wilson, who ran a meet-record 13.20 seconds in 2012, will compete against world record holder Aries Merritt and rising American star Andrew Riley in the 100.
The 400 hurdles field is headlined by defending meet champion Michael Tinsley, the silver medalist in both London and Moscow, and 2012 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez.
Meet officials chose to drum up buzz for this year’s high invitational high jumps by holding an exhibition near the meat section of a nearby grocery store.
If the ability to land strong jumps in the shadow of a deli counter is any indication, Inika McPherson and Erik Kynard should be considered the favorites to win Saturday’s events at Drake Stadium.
McPherson cleared 6-foot-2 to win Monday’s exhibition at a Hy-Vee store in Waukee. But American record-holder Chaunte Howard-Lowe should be tough to beat outdoors, and Brigetta Barrett finished second in London and Moscow.
Though holding an event in a grocery store might seem a bit hokey, Barrett was pleased to see Drake officials go out of their way to attract notoriety for the upcoming meet.
“This is exactly what the sport of track and field needs,” Barrett said. “We need to be more spectator-friendly and find ways to draw people in. This is a good step.”
Kynard cleared 7-6 indoors on Monday and is a threat to break the meet record of 7-7 held by Brian Brown, the current director of the Drake Relays.
American gold medalist Jen Suhr will compete against Yarisley Silva, the world’s top-ranked pole vaulter. Silva cleared 15-11 last year to set a new meet standard.
The meet kicks off with a light schedule Thursday. Titles will be decided in the decathlon, heptathlon and 5,000 and 10,000.