Olympians, a Blue Oval and a Place to Call Home

Originally from Madison, Wis., Ben Jaskowiak decided to attend Drake University’s business school and take advantage of all it had to offer, not only of being in Greater Des Moines (DSM) but that the area is so immersed in the insurance and financial industries as well. However, his involvement in the Drake Relays solidified his decision to stay in DSM. 

Experiencing the Drake Relays

He joined the track and cross-country teams at Drake and grew to love being a part of the Drake Relays in his four years as a student-athlete. Ben ran the 10,000 meters at the Drake Relays during his junior year, but it was his freshman year in 2009 when the Relays celebrated 100 years, that got him hooked. Jaskowiak got to experience the festivities honoring Olympians such as Jesse Owens, Susie Favor Hamilton, Michael Johnson and others as Athletes of the Century. “To have my first Drake Relays be the 100th Anniversary was eye-opening. I had no idea about the history and caliber of athletes that competed in the Relays until that time.” He still finds it amazing just how much the community participates in the Drake Relays each year and how recognized the Blue Oval is within the track community. 

Ben says that attending the Drake Relays is an awesome way to experience the talented athletes participating all in one place. The Drake Relays is the first big outdoor meet of the year on the professional track circuit, and you could see athletes at Drake Stadium prior to seeing them compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics later this summer. It's an up-close-and-personal experience right in your own backyard that can only be found in DSM. (A who’s-who of past Drake Relays competitors? Caitlyn Jenner, Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Frank Shorter, Gwen Torrence, Lolo Jones, Phil Knight and even, yes, Garth Brooks.) 

Since graduating from Drake, Ben has run the Grand Blue Mile every year and oftentimes takes part in the Relays Road Races as well. He also volunteers in some way every year to give back to the track program and community, too, joining more than 1,000 other volunteers supporting the week’s events. Seeing Drake Stadium completely packed, people sitting shoulder to shoulder, is something to behold in person and volunteering is a great way to do that. Involvement this year was especially exciting for Ben and his wife, who welcomed a daughter last August, as she gets to experience the Drake Relays in 2024 for the first time. “She only missed two Drake men’s basketball home games this year, and we’re excited to share Drake Relays memories together as a family.” 

Greater Des Moines (DSM) Favorites

During his years in school, Ben watched as Downtown Des Moines (DSM) continued to change and increase the number of things to do, including the awesome bike trails you can ride from city to city around the region. “The trails are a great way to explore the city and surrounding area. It’s certainly a unique feature that doesn’t exist in every city that we’re lucky to have.” And when you’re not attending a Drake event or staying active on the trails, he suggests trying out Manhattan Deli on Ingersoll or El Bait Shop in Historic Court District (the sheer number of beers on tap is impressive!). 

Connect with DSM

Alongside elite athletic action, you’ll find Greater Des Moines (DSM) offers a place where you can do something greater: Chase your career dreams, live affordably and get connected in a welcoming community. Get to know DSM and find your greater here.   

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