Outside looking in
Welcome to the 2021 Drake Relays, where ticket opportunities range from scarce to non-existent
Let me preface this by fully admitting clear-cut answers are few and far between in our society right now. Everyone seems to be on a different page when it comes the pandemic, especially in relation to outdoor athletics and activities.
The decision to limit capacity at the Drake Relays for Thursday’s high-school competition was inevitable. The number of available tickets — 3,000 — seems low to me for the 14,557-seat Drake Stadium, but I trust experts and officials were logical and reasonable in determining what would work best, given the circumstances.
Here’s where the process went south: tickets were available to last year’s pass-holders first, followed by Drake University boosters and alumni. By the time the general public had its shot — at 10 a.m. last Thursday — the tickets were gone as fast as they appeared. The “sold out” message appeared within seconds.
It’s hard to say how many slots were even available at that point. Maybe only a few hundred. Or a few dozen. Or virtually none.
In any event, the overwhelming majority of parents and guardians of Drake high school qualifiers — close to 1,000 Iowa student-athletes in all — will be forced to watch on television or via live stream once the action starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
This is all really unfortunate. It doesn’t do any good to rant and rave about it now; Drake officials made their call, and they’re dealing with the fallout. It’s going to get uglier for them before the storm finally passes sometime after Thursday.
Yes, some passes should have been set aside for qualifying schools or family members of participants. If they had it to do over again, my guess is the ticket distribution would have a much different look than it does today. I’m not entirely sure what Drake was thinking or expecting given the low capacity count, but what’s done is done.
For as eager as parents and guardians are to see their kids compete on the Blue Oval, there’s also a sense of appreciation and perspective — shared by most — that the Relays are happening at all this year.
No one has more of a right to be upset than Toni Schreier of Fort Dodge. Not only is her son, Tyler, a senior, but he’s competing in four Drake events: the 100-meter dash, the long jump, and on the Dodgers’ 4×100- and 4×200-meter relay teams.
Like most, Toni doesn’t have a ticket yet. She’s hoping to land one when Drake opens up 150 more seats to the general public on Wednesday. The link goes live at 10 a.m.
“I’m just thankful they can run. That’s the positive I take from it all,” Toni said. “Keeping my fingers crossed that we are able to get one of the 150 now.”
Even if Toni doesn’t make it into Drake Stadium on Thursday, she added, “we’ll get there at 6:30 (a.m.), set up a tent in the parking lot and tailgate. We’ll be cheering them on, (whether it’s) inside or out in the parking lot.”
Chances are, she’ll be grouped with the vast majority of family members, grumbling about limitations and watching from afar. Their consternation and subsequent frustration is totally justified. No one is really at “fault” here, per se. As I’ve said before, relatively speaking, shutting things down due to the pandemic last March was the easy part. The requirements and expectations of opening back up is much more complicated.
So here we are. April of 2021. Getting back to normal — sort of — with a restricted, protocol-peppered version of the Drake Relays.
My advice? Heed Toni Schreier’s advice. Make the most of Thursday, even if that means supporting your kids and schools from the comforts of your own home. If you wind up in the vicinity of Drake Stadium only, still cheer as if you were in the front row.
Maybe someone will come along and save the day by giving you their golden ticket at the 11th hour. Stranger things have happened. The odds are long, but defeating them is often what “Iowa Nice” is all about.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @MessengerSports