US hurdler Harrison looks for 4th Drake Relays title

LUKE MEREDITH (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- American Keni Harrison will try to become just the second four-time meet champion in the 100-meter hurdles at this weekend's Drake Relays.

Harrison, the world record holder at 12.20 seconds, is set to headline a talented field on Saturday. It'll be just the second outdoor race of the season for Harrison, who finished second at the Mt. Sac Relays last weekend at 12.63.

Harrison will be joined by seven Olympians from six different countries - including Nia Ali of the U.S., who won silver in the event at the Rio Olympics three years ago and set her personal best of 12.48 in 2014 at Drake Stadium.

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Here are some of the other events to watch out for as the 110th Drake Relays kick off in earnest on Friday.

MEN'S 200

The men's 200-meter race might turn out to be even closer than the marquee women's hurdle race, with five Olympians and meet record holder Wallace Spearmon in the field. Spearmon, a three-time national champion, ran a 20.02 to set the Drake mark. Spearmon's main challenger might be Ameer Webb, who was fifth at the 2017 world championships, but watch out for surging junior college hurdler Kenny Bednarek. He's coming off national titles in the 200 and 400, and he recently ran a wind-aided 20.12 at Drake Stadium.

MEN'S HURDLES

Omar McLeod, the 2016 Olympic champion, will be seeking his third Drake title in the event. McLeod, whose personal best of 12.90 is the fifth fastest in the world, set a new meet mark of 13.08 three years ago in what foreshadowed his future success in Rio. The 400-meter hurdles field will be led by Jeffrey Gibson, a 2016 Olympian from the Bahamas. He won a 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medal after taking first at Drake last April.

POLE VAULT

Defending champions Sam Kendricks and Sandi Morris, both Olympic medalists, will headline what's arguable the most high-profile event of the field schedule. Kendricks won the world championship in 2017, while Morris was a silver medalist in Rio. Morris, who broke the meet record last year at 16 feet, will attempt to become just the second four-time Drake winner in the event.

STARTING BLOCKS

Sha'Keela Saunders, who won the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championship in the women's long jump in Des Moines last summer, is scheduled to compete on Friday. She's currently ranked seventh in the world. ... Ashley Spencer, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the women's 400 hurdles, finished fourth at Drake a year ago. She'll compete against Jaide Stepter, who recently took first at the Millrose Games in New York. ...Former University of Iowa standout Erik Sowinski will run the 1,500 after finishing fourth in his debut in the mile (4.01.44) at Drake a year ago. ... Tripp Hurt won the Grand Blue Mile, a 1-mile race through the streets of Des Moines that's connected to the Drake Relays, in 4:04.21 on Tuesday. The first five finishers in that event were all within a second of each other.

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