US News released their annual Best States rankings with Iowa ranking #1 overall!
The categories are health care, education, economy, opportunity, infrastructure, crimes & corrrections, fiscal stability, and quality of life. Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Nebraska all cracked the top 10, making the upper Midwest the best represented region overall.
In the end, what makes Iowa so great? Well, for runners these topics are certainly factors, but there are so many more features about Iowa that make it one of the best states overall, and especially for runners!
#1 The Drake Relays
To have such a historical meet held in the center of Iowa is an exciting piece of the excitement in Iowa. With the high school races being conclusive to just Iowan athletes, the Relays are a sellout among professional running fans and high school fans alike. The stadium fills and covers the blue seats completely with a roaring echo in the nearby neighborhoods. It is a once-in-a-lifetime event for many, and is sought after by athletes from all over the world. The Blue Oval alone is a piece of history with the likes of Wilma Rudolph, Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis, Caitlyn Jenner (as Bruce) and more gracing the track.
#2 Trails, Trails, Trails
Iowa has more than 2,000 miles of trails- from paved paths to dirt routes to crushed limestone, Iowa is an awesome place to run. The paved paths are often cleared after big snows and connect many cities together. In Des Moines alone one can run from downtown Des Moines all the way passed Ankeny, or even over to Grimes or Waukee, all within the protected beauty of the paved trail. Plus, there's a super awesome app called Iowa By Trail where users can map out routes and find nearby trails anywhere in the state!
#3 Sell-Out State Meet
Each year the Iowa State High School Track & Field Championships presents a huge sellout crowd. Iowa is one of the only states that sells out nearly every year, even with a state meet that occurs over 3 full days.
#4 Running Clubs
There are various youth running clubs all around the state that represent well at the USATF and AAU meets each year. There are numerous opportunities for young athletes to pursue their talents in track and field with excellent coaches, including University of Iowa head track coach Joey Woody, who coaches the Iowa Speed. For adults, clubs like Capital Striders in Des Moines, Corridor Running in Iowa City, and many others around the state.
#5 College Running Opportunities
Higher education in Iowa is very well represented with universities, state schools, private schools, and junior colleges offering excellent running programs. Both the University of Iowa and Iowa State have teams that consistently compete at NCAA meets and have a great history of success. Iowa Central Community College is also known for having an outstanding number of National titles in the NJCAA and various athletes that have gone on to compete in the NCAA and beyond. There are tons and tons of other programs that recruit homegrown talent like UNI, Hawkeye Community College, Drake, Grinnell, Simpson, Grand View, and so many more!
All in all, we believe that Iowa is the greatest state of all, but now it has been confirmed by US News! Whether you love it for the corridor, downtown Des Moines, the Pella Tulip Time festival, the great shopping in the quad cities, or for our favorite-- the amazing running scene-- Iowa is a great place to be.