The Drake Relays will start tonight in a unique venue, a suburban Des Moines Mall. Several of the country’s top pole vaulters will compete in the Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines. American record holder Jeff Hartwig assisted in designing a layout and he brought a portable runway with him.
Hartwig drove up from Arkansas with a stack of wood to build the runway. Hartwig says a critical piece is the box that is eight inches deep at the end of the runway. Hartwig says it kind of puts vaulters on the stage and they "feel like runway models up there."
Hartwig says the venue will allow fans to view the event up close, and he says it’s really a chance to take the sport outside the normal stadium setting. Hartwig says the fans will be able to get up close and personal and see how high the bar is, and the vaulters don’t have to worry about the weather.
Hartwig says the mall is big enough that the competitors will be safe and fans to get to watch up close. "The pit’s gonna sit between Victoria’s Secret and William Sonoma, there’s a little something for everyone, if the window displays aren’t a distraction," Hartwig says.
Drake Relays director Brian Brown added the event after the success of the men’s and women’s invitational high jump, which was held in downtown Des Moines the past two years. The high jump will be held downtown again during the Thursday noon hour.