DES MOINES, Iowa — For high school track athletes in Iowa, the Drake Relays is the biggest stage in the state. But this year, many athletes won’t have their parents there as they compete on the Blue Oval.
Drake University is capping the number of people who can be there in person. Anyone who had tickets last year and did not ask for a refund when the relays got canceled automatically got seats. Next in line came boosters and alumni. This is consistent with what Drake does every year, but that means those few coveted spots didn’t go to parents.
For high school athletes, the chance to compete in the Drake Relays is an achievement worth sharing.
“It brings more out of you when you know that your family is there and you’ve got that support for these athletes,” said Justin Elefson.
North Polk parents Justin and Kayla Elefson have made it to every single one of their son’s sporting events.
“We’ve never missed anything that he’s ever done, and this is going to be like missing out on this huge accolade of his,” said Kayla Elefson.
On Thursday, they will be among the many parents who will not get to cheer their kids on from the stands.
“That’s the hard thing. The hard pill to swallow was that there are people that are going to be in there, just not us,” said Justin Elefson.
“I would love to get them in, but right now my job is to help make the best possible competition with these confines and these are the cards we’ve been dealt,” said Blake Boldon, the director of the Drake Relays.
With limited capacity, Thursday’s tickets sold out within minutes, with many families like the Elefsons feeling frustrated that they weren’t prioritized.
“I just want them to put themselves in our position. How would you feel if you weren’t going to be there to watch your child run in their last Drake Relays,” said Toni Schreier, a parent from Fort Dodge.
Now, parents like the Elefsons are scrambling to see if someone else will give up their tickets so they can support their son.
“I’m praying to God and hoping that something changes and happens for us because it’s not too late,” said Justin Elefson.