Patterson opens US season at Drake Relays - Sports Illustrated

Patterson opens US season at Drake Relays

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U.S. javelin star Kara Patterson described the wind Friday at the Drake Relays as the worst she's ever thrown in, somehow blowing both in her face and straight across the field.

Oh, and Patterson said it was really gusty, too.

The funny thing was that the conditions in Iowa could have been much worse.

It was never above 55 degrees, and the wind gusted as high as 43 mph during the second day of full competition for the 103rd annual edition of the meet. But the rain held off until late Friday, allowing Patterson to get in her first throws on American soil this year.

Patterson, the top American in the javelin, threw a meet-high 185 feet, 7 inches as she works her way toward the Olympic Trials, which start in late June. Patterson doesn't get credit for a victory because the event was in the university/college division.

"You try to pretend that it is not a problem," Patterson said. "I had some good energy in some of those throws and then the wind just carried them out of sector."

Patterson, who set the American record at 218-9 at Drake in 2010, said she has focused on getting her body where it needs to be by then.

Patterson threw twice at a meet in Australia in February, when she said some of her power and strength were lacking.

"Since I've been back I've been lifting heavy, throwing heavy implements and putting a lot of strength and power in my body. But I haven't had the rest to have that catch up with me and work for me on the runway," Patterson said. "I'm really excited to eventually get that rest and see what the really hard training I've done this whole year is going to do for me in the summer - when it really counts."

The conditions kept the record books safe. Just one non-prep athlete was able to set a meet standard, as Oklahoma junior Tia Brooks set a record in the women's university shot put at 60-7 1/4.

Brooks, a junior, won the meet for the second straight year, breaking the record set by Nebraska's Tressa Thompson in 1998. Brooks did it on her final attempt, though she didn't realize it at the time.

Brooks's effort was the best outdoor mark in the U.S. this year.

"I just saw the officials pulling out the steel tape and all the coaches yelling, but I thought it was because it's cold, you know. I didn't even know what the record was coming into the meet, I just wanted to defend my title and win again. To do that is amazing," Brooks said.

Notre Dame blew past North Dakota State to win the women's 3,200-meter relay in 8 minutes, 35.89 seconds, the best time in the nation so far in 2012. Minnesota won the men's 3,200 relay in 7:19.02 - 6 seconds ahead of Arkansas.

Arkansas snapped Baylor's five-year winning streak in the men's 800 relay, holding off the Bears by less than two-tenths of a second. The Arkansas women's 800 relay squad made it a sweep for the school, winning in 1:34.05.

The University of Florida's Stipe Zunic, from Croatia, won his fifth straight meet when he took the javelin with a throw of 244-9, beating 2011 NCAA champion Tim Glover of Illinois State.

"I believe I was ready for much more," Zunic said. "I think you would have seen bigger throws from everyone if the weather would have been a bit better."

The real concern regarding the weather is that it could keep U.S. athletes hoping to make the team headed to London from competing on Saturday.

Des Moines native and fan favorite Lolo Jones is scheduled to compete in the invitational 100 hurdles on Saturday. But Jones acknowledged that poor conditions could force her to sit it out, even though she'd be disappointing the hometown crowd.

The forecast calls for overcast skies and temperatures in the mid-50s.

"I'm from Iowa yes, but I'm not Rocky and I'm not trying to run in snow here," Jones said. "When I made the announcement to run, a lot of people were like `We're cautious of you doing so because it is an Olympic year and we would rather see you run at the Olympics than the Drake Relays, but we want to see you at both'. So, I will do my best to do both."