DES MOINES, Iowa — Alexa Efraimson needed just two races this season to reach No. 1.
The 22-year-old from Camas overcame cold, wet conditions and a tough field to win the 1,500 meters at the Drake Relays on Saturday. The temperature dipped to 38 degrees with a wind chill of 28 at the time of Efraimson’s race.
“I was pretty happy with how the race went, in my preparation and execution, especially considering the conditions,” Efraimson said in a text to The Columbian. “I can say that this last Portland winter prepped me well.”
In her second race of the season, Efraimson joined a field that largely included fellow professionals and a combined seven NCAA All-American honors.
Efraimson took the lead during the final lap, then hung on over the final 100 meters. Her time on 4 minutes, 13.18 seconds put her ahead of Hannah Fields (4:13.44), Heather Kampf (4:13.65) and Shannon Osika (4:14.22).
This was the third straight year Efraimson has raced at the Drake Relays. Dating to 1910, the event annually gathers top professional, collegiate and high school athletes in one of the top-regarded events in U.S. outdoor track and field.
Efraimson, the American junior record holder in the 1,500 meters, finished fifth at Drake in the two-mile last year and sixth in the 1,500 the previous year.
She opened her season last weekend with a third-place finish at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, Calif.
In other events, Keni Harrison cruised to her fourth straight win in the 100-meter hurdles on Saturday at the Drake Relays, joining Lolo Jones as the only women in meet history to do so.
Harrison crossed in a wind-aided 12.65 seconds on a miserable day at Drake Stadium, where temperatures plunged into the high 30s with a steady rain and a wind chill that made it feel below freezing at times.
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Harrison’s training partner, was second at 12.85. Canadian Phylicia George was third at 12.96.
The weather wasn’t the only challenge faced, as a pair of false starts threatened to sap the hurdlers of their momentum. But it didn’t hamper Harrison, the world record-holder at 12.20.
“I just had to re-focus,” Harrison said of the restarts. “I didn’t feel my best, but sometimes you have to go out and just get the job done.”
The men’s 110 hurdles produced a mild upset, as Kentucky junior Daniel Roberts held off 2016 Olympic champion Omar McLeod by one one-hundredth of a second for the win in a wind-aided race.
Roberts won in 13.28 to become the first college athlete to win the event since it was added to Drake’s schedule in 2002.
“I knew he was going to be there. I know he’s very fast. So I had to just get out, focus on my lane,” said Roberts of McLeod. “I tell myself all the time that I’m the best hurdler in the world because that’s where I want to be one day.”
American Kori Carter, the 2017 world champion, won in her first appearance in the 400 hurdles in nearly two years. Carter finished at 56.07, the eighth-fastest time in the world so far this season. Ashley Spencer, who won bronze in the event at the 2016 Rio Games, was third at 57.02. “I’m a little rusty,” Carter said. “I did not know how much I missed this race…I felt like a little kid again.”
Thanks in part to the unfavorable conditions, the only athlete to clear 6 feet in the high jump was winner Amina Smith. Smith, who entered the meet ranked fifth in the world, had the highest jump at 6-0 3/4 . Kendell Williams, who won the long jump on Friday night, was ninth at 5-7 3/4 — and fourth-ranked American Erica Bougard failed to clear the opening bar.
Ryan Crouser, the reigning Olympic champion, won the shop put with a mark of 69 feet, 3 1/4 inches. Though Crouser’s winner was over five feet shy of the personal best he posted last week, Crouser’s business-like showing was enough to take first. “Hats were blowing off of people’s heads, it was raining sideways,” Crouser said.