By Luke Meredith
Associated Press Sports Writer
DES MOINES, Iowa — The Baylor men’s 800-meter relay was hoping to break the school record set decades ago at Drake Stadium.
The Bears had to settle for a fifth straight Drake Relays title, along with an impressive showing at the track that’s set to host the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June.
Baylor cruised to yet another win Friday in Des Moines, winning in 1:21.47 in windy conditions.
“It’s about tradition. People want to see us come out here and really do well, so we wanted to put on a show for the crowd and for ourselves,” Baylor anchor leg Whitney Prevost said. “It’s part of the Baylor tradition to win Drake.”
Kansas State pulled off a big surprise in the women’s 3,200 relay, as anchor leg Boglarka Bozzay outkicked Minnesota’s Elizabeth Yetzer in the final turn to give the Wildcats the title in 8:34.81 and deny the Gophers’ quest for a fifth straight meet victory.
Minnesota finished third behind Baylor. Nebraska — which featured four former Iowa prep stars with a combined 35 state titles at Drake Stadium — was fourth.
“I just wanted to take it easy the first lap and then have a big kick,” said Bozzay, who ran a 2:08 split. “They were tired and I was really fresh.”
U.S. javelin star Kara Patterson, whose throw of 218 feet, 8 inches at Drake last year set a U.S. record, had to settle for the best toss in the nation this year at 189-5.
Patterson feel short of the qualifying standard she was hoping to reach for the upcoming world championships, but she still has plenty of time to hit that mark.
“I’ve been making some good technical changes, and I think (Friday) was more technically minded than aggressive. And it’s kind of tough to throw far when you’re not just letting things happen,” Patterson said.
Baylor’s women’s 800-meter relay team made it a sweep for the Bears in that event, winning the meet title for the fifth time since 1999 and setting a school record in 1:33.08.
Wisconsin’s 6,400 relay team won in 16:32.76 and became the third different Big 10 team in three years to win the race. It was the fifth 6,400 win for the Badgers in the 6,400 but their first in 74 years.
Nebraska’s Natalie Willer, the Big 12’s indoor champion in the pole vault, won at Drake for the third year in a row by clearing 14-1¼.
Illinois junior Andrew Riley, the NCAA indoor winner in the 60 hurdles and a strong favorite in the 110 hurdles, stumbled over two hurdles in a preliminary heat and failed to qualify for the finals.
Riley will likely get another crack at winning on the blue oval in June at the NCAA Outdoors.
“This is a big disappointment. I’ve never stumbled in a race before. I didn’t get out like I wanted to and had to make too much transition,” Riley said. “I guess I’ll just have to wait for my next appearance at Drake Stadium.”
The Drake Relays conclude on Saturday with the marquee invitational events in front of what’s expected to be a sellout crowd.
Hurdler Lolo Jones, a Des Moines native and the meet’s top gate attraction, will try to shake nerve pain and snap a two-race winless streak in the 100 hurdles, while Drake record holder Alan Webb and 2010 champion Boaz Lalang are set to square off in the highly anticipated men’s invitational mile.
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner leads the field for the 400. Seven-time Drake champion Christian Cantwell heads a star-studded field for the shot put, which has blossomed into one of the meet’s most populat events.
Alabama coaches Sandy Fowler and Harvey Glance will be honored at midfield Saturday for their induction into the meet’s Hall of Fame — though the weekend has been bittersweet for both after dozens of tornadoes swept across the South in recent days, killing about 300 people, chiefly in Alabama.
Roughly half of the Crimson Tide’s athletes set to compete at Drake stayed behind this weekend.
“I think it’s going to be a good thing for them,” Glance said of the Tide athletes who made the trip. “To have something positive after something so negative happening.”