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Drake Relays moving marquee events to Friday night

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Drake Relays will now spread their events out over 18 hours, instead of just on one day.

Drake Relays will now spread their events out over 18 hours, instead of just on one day.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) --The Drake Relays is moving many of its marquee events under the lights.

Meet officials announced Tuesday that a number of invitational races and field events will be staged on a Friday night rather than its traditional Saturday afternoon setup.

The meet will still host a number of high-profile events on Saturday, such as the women's 200 hurdles and the men's triple jump and pole vault.

But after a decades-long setup that had the meet reach a harried crescendo on Saturday afternoon, the most intriguing events of the Drake Relays will now be spread over roughly 18 hours.

"Instead of just one time frame, now we have two nights where we can really celebrate these world-class, Olympic events," Drake Relays director Brian Brown said. "I think people will find their experience being broadened."

The money has certainly gotten the attention of the elite track and field community.

Drake organizers announced in November that the 104th annual meet, set for April 24-28, will offer more than $500,000 in prize money in 2013 for a series of rematches from the London Olympics. Meet organizers say they'll offer a $50,000 purse for invitational races and $25,000 for field events - each the biggest such prize in the U.S. - after landing a new title sponsor, supermarket chain Hy-Vee.

Many top track stars have often skipped Drake in the past in favor of the Penn Relays, which typically is held on the same weekend. But the Drake Relays said it currently has commitments from 22 medalists from the London Games, with 16 of them slated to compete during the Friday night slate.

"Friday night was more for the high schools. It's for everyone now, and it's going to continue to climb all the way through Saturday," Brown said.

Brown said the reigning gold medalist in the triple jump, Christian Taylor, has committed to compete. He joins a roster that includes U.S. pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, long jumper Brittney Reese and hurdlers Dawn Wells and Kelly Wells.

The meet's international reach has expanded as well, with London medalists from 14 nations committed to competing in Des Moines in late April.

"The money does help in terms of gaining their interest. It helps to secure globally the world's best," Brown said.