Men and women head to Des Moines for 100th Drake Relays

The Minnesota menâÄôs and womenâÄôs track teams have busy weekends. Each team is competing in three different meets. The Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, will highlight the schedule for both teams. It will be the 100th running of the Drake Relays, which started yesterday and will run through Saturday. The men also sent athletes to the Macalester Twilight Meet and to Gustavus for the Drake Alternative meet. The women will send 22 athletes to the Sooner Invitational in Norman, Okla., and have the throwers and pole vaulters compete in the Hamline Invitational in St. Paul. Over 7,300 athletes will get to compete at the blue track at Drake. There will be 49 NCAA Division I schools competing in the menâÄôs events and 53 schools in the womenâÄôs portion. There will also be athletes from 66 countries competing. Minnesota will try to defend its event titles from last year. The womenâÄôs 4×800-meter relay will attempt to go for its third consecutive crown. Seniors Julie Schwengler, Jamie Cheever and Heather Dorniden ran on the 2007 and 2008 champion squads and will be joined by sophomore Nikki Swenson this year. Cheever and Dorniden have each won four Drake Relays titles, more than any other Gophers athlete. Besides the 4×800 relay, Dorniden will anchor the 4×1, 600 relay and Cheever will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Senior Ibrahim Kabia is looking to defend his 100-meter dash title while junior Aaron Studt will try to defend his shot put title. Many Gophers will also make their outdoor season debuts at Drake. Junior R.J. McGinnis will compete in his first decathlon of the 2009 outdoor season. His goal is to earn an NCAA championships-qualifier of 7,500 points. For an NCAA regional qualifier, he would need 6,900 points. Last year, McGinnis finished 16th in the NCAA decathlon. He has started out well; McGinnis finished fourth in the 100-meter dash, second in the long jump and first in the shot put. Sophomore Hassan Mead and junior Chris Rombough will debut as part of the 4×1, 600-meter relay team. This race will be one of the top relays at Drake because of the tough competition in the event, especially by Stanford and Wisconsin. Junior Matt Fisher will compete against Washington State junior Trent Arrivey in the Drake Relays Special Invitational High Jump Competition on Saturday. Arrivey matched FisherâÄôs height of 7-4 ½, which remains the top height cleared in the nation this season. Junior Megan Duwell will be looking to qualify for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships in the 1,500 this weekend. She already has a regional qualifying time in the 5,000. Minnesota will send seven athletes with regional qualifying marks to compete to the Sooner Invitational. Senior Liz Roehrig will compete in four events instead of her usually heptathlon, where she is the current national leader. One athlete not competing this weekend will be redshirt freshman Trey Davis. He is also a member of the Minnesota football team and will be taking part in the teamâÄôs spring game. He has already qualified to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional championship in the discus.