DES MOINES — First, the fist pump. Then, the scream and smile for ESPN’s camera.
Webster City native Jenny Simpson didn’t just win the “London Rematch” 1,500-meter run last night at the Drake Relays. She crushed it — in record-setting fashion.
Petals in the just-received congratulatory floral bouquet scattered, and the 2011 world indoor champion celebrated her third straight win in the event at Drake Stadium, this one coming in a stadium record 4:03.35.
“That was what the fist pumping was for at the end,” said Simpson, who eclipsed the previous best time in the world this season. “I have a lot of family here in Iowa and a lot of history here. My grandfather was a graduate of Drake. The first thing I thought is I get to get my name on the stadium. That’s really, really special to me.”
Canadian Olympian Sheila Reid finished a distant second (4:07.92), and USA mile road champion Kate Grace took third (4:08.24). Mary Cain, a 16-year-old high school junior from Bronxville, N.Y., placed sixth in a time of 4:10.77.
“Gosh, I felt so tired and they were running so fast,” said Cain, who’s been dubbed by some the best young American runner since Mary Decker. “I’m really happy with a 4:10.”
Ashley Miller, who won an unmatched 15 state high school track titles at Drake for Tipton, was lukewarm about her 10th-place effort. Miller, in her first professional season under ASICS sponsorship, finished in 4:19.86.
“I wish I would have had more courage to stick my nose in a little more,” said Miller, who was sidelined with an injury for a month of the indoor season. “I definitely didn’t run as fast as I would have liked with such good girls pulling me along. I think I just need to run with more confidence.”
Simpson’s never wavered, especially as dreams of a record began echoing in her head.
“That was so huge,” Simpson said of the booming reminder. “I came around with 400 to go and I felt good and then I heard the announcer. (He said) I had to run a 65.5 or somewhere around there to get the record and I was like, ‘I know I can do that. The last finishing stretch was so hard because it was so windy, but I was so full of joy by that point, it was not oppressive at all.”
Wind played a big role in at least one of the other marquee races — the London Rematch 110-meter men’s hurdles. London gold medalist Aries Merritt finished second in 13.48 — a whisker behind first-year pro Andrew Riley (13.43).
“I’m like a buck 69,” Merritt said. “So all that wind was not going to bode well for me.”
It did for Riley.
Things often go his way at Drake, where he set an NCAA record by winning the 100-meter dash and 110 hurdles last summer.
“Every time I come here it’s always emotional,” Riley said. “I love coming here.”