Drake Relays

Inika McPherson high jumps as Power Ranger at Drake Relays

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Olympian Inika McPherson took her first high jumps at the Drake Relays on Friday night dressed as a “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” character.

She finished the competition in more normal attire, taking runner-up to Rio teammate Vashti Cunningham in Des Moines, Iowa. McPherson, 31, cleared 1.91 meters and missed three attempts at 1.94.

“Every time I teach kids, I tell them to get an alter ego, think of a super hero they really like,” McPherson told media. “I grew up watching Power Rangers. I always wanted to have something to say, hey, thank you.”

McPherson, a 5-foot, 4-inch jumper who made the Olympic team after a 21-month cocaine suspension, said she chose the Black Ranger costume over the Pink Ranger because “he was the leader of the group.”

“I tell kids, you can’t be the same person you are at home when you’re just so, like, hella-cool,” she said. “You’ve got to be your alter ego.”

McPherson had difficulty seeing the bar behind the full body suit that covered her face. She also struggled with breathing, so she took it off for the later rounds.

The 10th-place finisher in Rio said she might bring the costume back for the USATF Outdoor Championships in Des Moines in June.

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VIDEO: Andre De Grasse beaten in first race in 9 months at Drake

Inika McPherson
Chris Donahue/Drake Relays

Andre De Grasse beaten in first race in nine months at Drake Relays

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Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse looked rusty in his first race since July, finishing fourth in the Drake Relays 100m after a slow start on Saturday.

American Isiah Young won in 10.02 seconds, .01 ahead of countryman Mike Rodgers. De Grasse, who took 100m bronze and 200m silver in Rio, was fourth in 10.15 with a 1.9 meter/second tailwind.

“It was all about coming out healthy,” De Grasse told media in Des Moines, Iowa. “So I’m happy.”

De Grasse made Drake his comeback meet from a strained right hamstring that kept him from competing at the 2017 World Championships.

De Grasse is scheduled to race at the first two Diamond League meets this season the next two weeks in Doha and Shanghai with possible showdowns against Americans Justin Gatlin and Christian Coleman.

Full Drake Relays results are here.

Earlier Saturday, world-record holder Kendra Harrison won the 100m hurdles against a field that included two-time Olympic medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson. Harrison, whose world record is 12.20, clocked 12.37 with a 2.5 m/s tailwind, too much wind to make it a legal time.

Devon Allen, an Olympian and former Oregon wide receiver, won the 110m hurdles in 13.42, edging 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder Aries Merritt by .03 into a headwind.

Olympic champ Ryan Crouser beat world champ Tomas Walsh of New Zealand in the shot put, throwing 22.01 meters. Walsh still owns the three best throws this season, with a top mark of 22.67.

On Friday night at Drake, Olympic 1500m bronze medalist Jenny Simpson shattered the American record for two miles by winning in 9:16.78.

Three-time Olympian Shannon Rowbury held the previous mark of 9:20.25 from 2014. The two-mile is not held at the Olympics or world championships.

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VIDEO: Justin Gatlin leads U.S. to win at Penn Relays

Andre De Grasse’s return headlines Drake Relays on NBC Sports

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Andre De Grasse believes he could have entered the Drake Relays as the world champion in the 100m and 200m. Instead, he watched those finals last August. One from his hotel room. The other on replay on social media.

De Grasse, the Rio Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, will race for the first time in nine months at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday as part of NBC Sports’ weekend track and field coverage.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold will air live coverage of the Drake Relays and Penn Relays.

Friday
Penn Relays: 5-6 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

Saturday
Penn Relays: 12:30-3 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold
Drake Relays: 3-5 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold

The Canadian De Grasse is the Drake Relays headliner, racing for the first time since suffering a grade 2 right hamstring strain four days before last year’s worlds in London.

De Grasse faces a Drake field that includes six other men who have broken 10 seconds, but of them only U.S. Olympian Mike Rodgers (9.85) has a better personal best than De Grasse’s 9.91 from the Rio Olympic final.

Rodgers, a decade older than De Grasse, hasn’t broken 10 seconds in his last 28 wind-legal races, according to Tilastopaja.org.

The field is not of much concern for De Grasse.

“I’m not looking for a specific time or anything,” he said Monday. “Just looking to get my legs under me, get the rust off, see what I can do and go from there.”

De Grasse said in a recent CBC interview that he’s been training for five months since the injury. He remembers the thoughts as he watched the world championships, starting with Usain Bolt‘s relegation to bronze in his last individual race won by Justin Gatlin‘s late surge.

“I knew that it could have been anybody’s race; [silver medalist Christian] Coleman could have won, Bolt could have won or Gatlin,” De Grasse said Monday. “When I watched it, I was surprised because usually Bolt would usually catch [up to win]. Coleman was out in front. You couldn’t really see where Gatlin was. Usually, Bolt would come back at the end. It looked like, for sure, that would happen. It looked like from my view that Coleman won. When I saw the replay, Gatlin kind of just snuck in there. … I was definitely surprised of the outcome. … I wish I could have been in it, but there’s going to be more opportunities for me.”

(De Grasse said he has not recently spoken with Bolt or “anybody in track in a while.” Last July, De Grasse’s coach was quoted saying that his sprinter was “booted out” of a race per Bolt’s wishes, which De Grasse later denied in a report, calling Bolt a legend.)

Gatlin’s winning time was 9.92 seconds into a .8 meters/second headwind. De Grasse failed to break 10 seconds in all five of his wind-legal 100m races last season, but he did run 9.69 with a mammoth 4.8 meters/second tailwind a month and a half before worlds.

Then came the world 200m final five days later. De Grasse said he had never heard of surprise winner Ramil Guliyev of Turkey. Guliyev won in 20.09, the slowest Olympic or world gold-medal time since 2003.

“I ran against all of those guys before and felt like I was capable of winning a race like that if I wasn’t injured,” De Grasse said. “To be honest, I had never heard of most of those guys in the 200m final except for I think a couple of guys, Wayde van Niekerk and [Nethaneel] Mitchell-Blake from Great Britain.”

De Grasse’s goals this season include breaking the Canadian 100m record of 9.84 (shared by Bruny Surin and Donovan Bailey, the latter’s time a then-world record at the 1996 Olympics). He would like to lower his 200m personal best of 19.80 from Rio.

He wants to win a Diamond League trophy for being the best man over 100m or 200m through the season. The 100m remains his preferred distance (“That’s the glory event.”).

De Grasse said he plans to race most of the Diamond League schedule, starting with the first two meets in Doha and Shanghai the next two weeks. De Grasse and Coleman are slated for a head-to-head at a Diamond League meet in London in July.

No matter what De Grasse does this season, he does not believe he can wrestle the mantle of world’s fastest man from Gatlin or Coleman.

“You can’t say off this year that you’re the fastest man in the world,” De Grasse said, noting it’s the only year in the quadrennium without a global championships. “You’ve got to wait until next year to do that.”

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