The Maneater

Schweizer’s happy homecoming headlines Missouri’s first day at Drake Relays

Karissa Schweizer and Megan Cunningham each posted nationally competitive times on Thursday.

Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

The Drake Relays have been run in Des Moines, Iowa since 1910. History and traditions such as the famous blue track and white flags awarded to event winners abound at this esteemed meet.

On Thursday night, Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer etched her own name into the relays’ storied history by setting the meet record at 15:23.21 in the women’s 5,000-meter race.

Just minutes away from her hometown of Urbandale, Iowa, the Tiger senior marked the first of Missouri’s three days at the relays with a performance that ranks atop the NCAA for this outdoor season. It is also the fourth-fastest in the world for the event so far in 2018.

“It just feels awesome to be back home and just have the home crowd cheering me on,” Schweizer said in a press release. “[I] really felt that when it was kind of hard toward the last lap, [it] just really pushed me forward.”

Also earning a white flag for the Tigers on Thursday was senior Megan Cunningham, who won the women’s 10,000 meters in 33:19.25. Her time was the fourth-best in Missouri’s program history and seventh-fastest in the NCAA’s West Region this season. The top 48 athletes in the region for each event during the regular season advance to the West regionals for a chance to qualify for the NCAA championships.

After suffering injuries to her neck and skull that left her unable to walk in a car crash in 2015, Cunningham has rebounded to become a key distance runner for Mizzou. She won the Southeastern Conference title in the indoor 5,000 meters in February, and Thursday’s 10K represented the longest race she has completed since returning from her injuries.

As was the case in Schweizer’s 1,500-meter run last week at the Tom Botts Invitational, an extra runner paced her over an early portion of the race to allow Schweizer to manage her speed and finish with the best possible time. Professional runner Anna Connor did the honors Thursday.

“[Having a pacer] just helps me relax towards the beginning of the race,” Schweizer said in the release. “To be able to have someone take [the lead] for a little bit truly helps a lot.”

Cunningham, however, had no such luxury in her race. After taking an early lead, she realized she would have to break away from the pack in order to post a regional qualifying mark. She went on to win the race by more than two minutes.

“I was going to try to stay behind a couple girls and then have the wind block for me a little bit,” Cunningham said in a press release. “But we were already coming through slow through the [first 200 meters], so I realized I was going to have to take it. I practice running by myself every day, so I just went out there ... like another day at practice.”

Redshirt senior Valeska Halamicek won the unseeded division of the women’s 1,500 meters in 4:26.44, setting a personal record and finishing two seconds shy of a regional qualification.

Also coming close to the top 48 in the West was redshirt freshman Karina Liz, who finished third in the unseeded women’s 800 meters with a 2:08.77, less than a second away from the regional qualifying time.

Missouri will begin competition in field events on Friday and will continue with track events as well through Saturday. Schweizer will return as part of the Tigers’ distance medley relay Saturday afternoon.

Edited by Bennett Durando | bdurando@themaneater.com

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