Miller-Koch successfully defends Drake heptathlon title
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Heather Miller-Koch successfully defended her Drake Relays heptathlon title Thursday, winning four of the seven events and finishing with 5,796 points.
Kale Wolken won the decathlon by nearly 1,000 points over Tyler Jones of Kent State.
Wisconsin took the 6,400-meter relay, giving the Badger men's program 50 meet titles overall, and the Minnesota women claimed the 6,400 for the first time in five years.
Melissa Dock won the women's 10,000 in 34 minutes, 41.83 seconds, while Hart Horner took the men's race in 29:35.50.
Bethanie Brown of Iowa was the 5,000 winner in 16:25.19, and Texas Tech's Evans Tuitoek topped the men's field at 13:58.56.
The Thursday schedule was a light one dedicated largely to collegiate distance events - which turned out to be fortuitous with cloudy conditions and temperatures in the low 50s.
The Relays truly begin Friday with the men's finals in the 400 and 400 hurdles and the women's 1,500.
Kirani James, the 2012 London Games gold medalist and likely a top contender at the Rio Olympics in August, is back at Drake after setting the meet record at 44.22. James will get a strong early test from LaShawn Merritt, who won silver at last year's world championships in Beijing, and the runner-up from the London Olympics, Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic.
''We want to get there in tip-top shape and the Drake Relays ... really show us where we're at and what we need to improve on after this. The competition here, it's so competitive that you're going to be pushed. When you're pushed like that, you really get to see how good you are at this point in the year,'' James said.
The highlight of Friday's field competition will likely be the women's long jump.
Three-time world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Brittney Reese won the U.S. indoor title last weekend with a jump of 22 feet, 7 1/4 inches, but she'll be looking to clean up her fundamentals at the outset of her outdoor season.
''My main focus is to establish some type of rhythm. I feel like I established that in indoor (competition), and now I have to establish it outdoors,'' Reese said.
Reese is among an increasing number of athletes who've spurned the more prestigious Penn Relays for this meet, lured by near-sellout crowds at the 15,000-seat Drake Stadium and the recent addition of purses for elite events.
Forecasts for heavy rain on Saturday could make life tough for fans and athletes. But 110 hurdler David Oliver wasn't fazed by the possibility of running in bad weather less than four months before the Rio Games.
''The weather is the same in everybody's lane, so who cares? You can control what you can control,'' Oliver said.