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Former Drake University Sprinter Reflects on the Drake Relays + Remaining in DSM

Deonne Witherspoon

April 18, 2023

As a former student of Drake University and sprinter for the 2016-2019 track teams, running on the Blue Oval at Drake Stadium during the Drake Relays was an awesome experience, a journey that began after attending the Junior Olympics at the stadium and culminated in creating a life in Greater Des Moines (DSM) that has led to my current work as Director of Marketing for the Iowa Cubs.

The Road to the Blue Oval

Growing up in Gary, Ind., sports were everything — and they were often competitive. I was good at basketball, baseball, etc., mainly because of my speed, and I’d run playground races and street races regularly. I ran in the Junior Olympics in 2009 at the age of 11, which was also my first time in DSM. As I got older, I watched my uncle run. He was killed in 2007 and his death motivated me to succeed in track and field and eventually find my way back to the Blue Oval. When he passed away due to gun violence back in Gary, it motivated me, even more, to succeed at the sport. A huge part of my decision to sign with Drake University was based on getting to participate in the Relays every year and practice on that blue track.

With Uncle

Photo: Deonne with his uncle.

 When I finally set foot on the track for the Relays, it was a surreal moment. Coming through the tunnel, seeing all the fans in the stadium and finally, seeing my entire group of friends there to cheer me on, was an experience I’ll never be able to replicate. It was the feeling of being at home.

Attending the Relays as an Alum

The Relays are also a big part of the Drake University campus community. Everyone gets pumped up about the event … you can feel it in the air. The teachers, the students — it’s bigger than spring break at Drake, and it’s one of the things I miss the most.

Siblings at Drake Stadium

Photo: Deonne and his sister pose with the bronze bulldog at Drake Stadium.

Alumni attending the Relays is an all-encompassing experience. You get to watch people taking a victory lap with that white Drake Relays flag. You see fans and athletes warming up who’ve trained all year for this moment. Dreams come true at the Drake Relays, and track and field athletes are in it together. Past and present athletes know the grind that is track and field, and a lot of times runners are competing with themselves more than other runners, working towards better splits and PB's, or personal bests, so there is a lot of encouragement among the teams and athletes here.

This year, I’ve been invited back to watch the Relays and a number of friends who are on the circuit as professionals will be running at the event, so I’ll be able to watch them compete and provide support to them and share some of what I love about DSM. It wasn’t my intention to stay here, but this place has made me into who I am. I love the community, the opportunities here and have grown as a person.

I’m honored to have been a part of the Drake community, to have run on the Blue Oval and to continue to call DSM home. Go Dogs!

See the action for yourself at the 2023 Drake Relays at Drake Stadium April 26 – 29. The full schedule and latest news is available at DrakeRelays.org.

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With the #7 Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S. and a Top Metro for Number of Economic Development Projects (among metros with a population of 200,000 to 1 million), Greater Des Moines (DSM) is a region where you can have it all. Learn more about what it’s like to live here.

Deonne Witherspoon

Deonne Witherspoon is the Director of Marketing for the Iowa Cubs. He is a former sprinter who ran collegiately in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Drake Relays and graduated Drake University in 2020.