I was reading over the weekend about television sports history and, in particular, the history behind ABC's "Wide World of Sports." The first episode of sports longest running show of all-time was live from one of America's top events, the 1961 Drake Relays in Des Moines.
Jim McKay and ABC knew, even then, the draw of Drake.
The annual "Track Carnival" remains to this day one of the country's greatest sporting events.
For four days, the best track athletes in the world perform in the same stadium as the top prep athletes of the state. The premise is unique, and is something that more than likely wouldn't be attempted this day and age.
The draw of the blue oval is intense. Where else can you watch your neighbor down the street and in the next race Lolo Jones run side-by-side against some of the world's best athletes?
The Drake Relays is a must for any sports fan, especially here in the state of Iowa. Even if you are not a fan of track and field, you still have to attend a Saturday at Drake once in your life. The crowd is amazing. It is enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. No matter if it is a high school prelim, or a final chock full of Olympians, the crowd seems to have a sixth sense when it comes time to increase the volume of their cheering.
The athletes know the importance of Drake. Washington's Brooke Foreman said it best when, after finishing second in the 400 hurdles on Saturday, she was reminded that she can still win a state title. She replied yes, but it's not a Drake flag.
The Drake champions flag is the symbol of excellence, from the preps to the top stars of the world. A look at the faces on the Prairie boys' 4x400 relay team should tell you everything you need to know about how special place Drake holds. And also the fact that Olympians like Jones, and others such as Moses, Hamilton, Johnson and Woody from the past returned year after year to run on the blue oval.
It is the center of the track world each spring.
So make your plans to head off to Des Moines in the near future. It is a trip that will turn anyone into a fan of track and field.
Now ... if only we can do something about the weather on Drake weekend!
(Scott Unash is the sports and program director at KGYM-AM 1600 (FM 106.3). He is a six-time winner of the Iowa Broadcast News Association play-by-play Announcer of the Year Award. Scott and Mark Dukes co-host the Gym Class weekdays from 3-4 p.m. on KGYM-AM 1600 and FM-106.3)
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