Senior Simone Wilson has already had a career that most athletes can only dream of during their college experience. As a two-time All-American and four-time national qualifier with nearly two handfuls worth of division championship medals, there isn’t much she hasn’t accomplished. But if you ask her what her favorite memory on the track is, her story transcends simple athletic victory.
“Simone is the most humble person I’ve ever met,” says Head Cross-Country and Assistant Track and Field Coach Phil Kopinski. “You could see her walking around campus and you may never even know how decorated of an athlete she truly is, because she just doesn’t talk about it.”
That’s why in April of 2019, when Wilson was struggling with the anniversary of her grandfather’s death approaching, no one knew. “Around that time, I remember my coaches talking about how I might qualify for the Drake Relays,” Wilson said. “I was so nervous. I really wanted to run in this meet because I knew my grandfather, Ray Eiland, had run for Drake University back in the 50s and qualified for the relays himself.”
It turns out Eiland didn’t just compete in the Drake Relays—he and his teammates set meet records in the 440-yard, 880-yard and 1-mile relays during the 1951 season. Their records held for more than 50 years.
Known as “America’s Athletic Event,” the Drake Relays are one of the premier track and field meets in the nation, across all three NCAA divisions. When Wilson found out she qualified for the meet, she got excited and emotional. “When I first started running track, people always used to say, ‘You should run because your grandpa did,’ so being able to compete where he went to school, on the same track as him, it was such a surreal feeling,” she says.
To read the full story on Wilson’s journey to honor her grandfather’s legacy, check out the Fall 2020 issue of the Forester.