Katie Flood stars as Drake opens

DES MOINES, Iowa -- There weren't any Olympic stars Thursday at the opening night of the Drake Relays, when cold and rainy conditions and a light schedule kept the crowd down.

However, Katie Flood, who is from Des Moines, marked her return to Drake Stadium with yet another impressive showing on the blue oval.

Washington swept the men's and women's 6,400 relays, with Flood anchoring the Huskies to a winning time of 19 minutes, 9.27 seconds. They held off Iowa State by 4 seconds.

Flood won six meet titles while at Dowling Catholic High. But this was the first trip back as a collegian for the Washington senior, and Flood finished her leg in 4:41.9.

"That was perfect," Flood said.

Native Iowan Lindsay Lettow won the heptathlon for the second year in a row with 5,619 points, over 200 more than runner-up Heather Miller Koch. Kurtis Brondyke, who won the NCAA Division III indoor pentathlon title in 2011 for Central College (Iowa), took the decathlon with 7,283 points.

Mary Alex England of Ole Miss held off Ohio State's Michelle Thomas to win the 10,000, while Trent Lusignan won the men's 10,000 in 29:55.69.

On tap for Friday, Lolo Jones, also a Des Moines native, will compete just two months removed from an 11th-place finish as a brakeman for a U.S. sled at the Sochi Olympics.

But rather than go for the meet title in her specialty, the 100-meter hurdles, Jones will team with world champion Bri Rollins, last year's 100 hurdles meet winner, Queen Harrison and Vashti Thomas in the shuttle hurdle relay.

Jones, 31, hasn't won in four consecutive 100 hurdles races at Drake. She also is dealing with the emotional and physical grind of switching from the bobsled to yet another full track season without a significant break.

Thus, the shuttle hurdle should help take some of the spotlight off Jones.

"It does make it more of a relay carnival-type atmosphere just because it's not my individualized event. But I think, with every race I have, it's still business for me. It's still, I'm trying to get a job done," Jones said. "You could say it takes the pressure off. But at the same time, if you do love your craft and if you're trying to do something well, you're still going to always put that pressure on yourself."

Jones is just one of a number of track stars the Drake Relays were able to lure to Des Moines despite running concurrently with the more high-profile Penn Relays in Philadelphia.

American LaShawn Merritt, the world's current No. 1 in the 400, will run Saturday against the likes of Kirani James, the defending Olympic champion.

While Penn doesn't offer purses, Drake is offering $50,000 in total purses in a number of key events as part of a push it started in 2013 to lure more elite athletes to Iowa.

"The job called, so we're here," Merritt said. "My agent put it together, and I showed up."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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