DES MOINES - Lolo Jones beamed as she took her victory lap, joyfully handing out autographs and high-fives for the kids crammed three-deep into the railings to get a brief glimpse of their hometown star.
It took six years and three fastER teammates, but Jones finally had another winner's bouquet to clutch at the Drake Relays.
Jones and teammates Bri Rollins, Queen Harrison and Vashti Thomas took the women's shuttle hurdle relay on Friday night.
Lolo Jones, left, of USA Red, and Andrea Bliss, right, of Jamaica compete in the womens 4x100 meter shuttle hurdle special at the Drake Relays Friday in Des Moines.
Lolo Jones signs autographs for fans after the women's shuttle hurdle relay at the Drake Relays on Friday in Des Moines.
It was the first meet victory for Jones - who went to high school mere miles from Drake Stadium - since she took the 100 hurdles in 2008.
"A win is always a win, so it doesn't matter if it was a really slow time or a really fast time. When you win, there's always that extra adrenaline you have," Jones said.
Jones hardly ran a clean race in her return to the track just two months after her stint as a bobsledder for the U.S. in the Sochi Olympics.
But it was clean enough to help beat a four-team field that saw one team fail to start and another fail to finish.
Jones stutter-stepped before her first hurdle, hitting in nine steps instead of the traditional seven. But Harrison's quick anchor leg helped the U.S. "Red" team beat Jamaica by just over a second.
"I made probably the biggest hurdle mistake you can make ... for a 100-meter hurdle race, you're pretty much sitting in a coffin like 'the race is over,'" Jones said. "So at that moment I crossed the line I was like, "All right Queen! Let's go team, because if it was individual Lolo would be in last place.'"
On the men's side, LaShawn Merritt beat one of the best fields in the 105-year history of the Drake Relays by winning the 400 in 44.44.
Merritt, the world's No. 1 in the 400, bested London Olympics champion Kirani James, Luguelin Santos and others to claim the $25,000 winner's prize.
"It was one of the most serious races I've ever run this early in the season, with the field," Merritt said. "I knew everybody was going to come prepared. I've been doing this for some time now, so the mental part was there. I'm feeling good."
Derek Drouin stole the show in the men's high jump, shattering both the meet record and his own Canadian mark by clearing 7 feet, 10 1/2 inches on his final try.
Drouin's previous personal best was 7-9 1/4 at last year's world championships. But Drouin was pushed by strong performances from Erik Kynard and Dusty Jones, who each finished at 7-8 1/2.
"It was as good of a competition as you're going to find anywhere," Drouin said.
Jamaican Hansle Parchment was somewhat of a surprise winner in the men's 110 hurdles, winning in 13.14.
Michael Tinsley, the silver medalist in both London and at last season's world championships in Moscow, took the 400 hurdles in 48.57. Puerto Rico's Javier Culson was second in 48.68.
Cuban Yarisley Silva looked every bit the world's top women's pole vaulter, dominating the field to win in 15-3 1/2.
This might have been the first time in recent memory that Friday night's session of the Drake Relays featured more stars than Saturday's finale. But there should still be plenty to watch during the final day of competition.
The 100 hurdles won't have Jones. But it will have Rollins, the defending world champion, along with Harrison, Dawn Harper-Nelson and Kellie Wells.
American Chaunte Howard-Lowe and Brigetta Barrett, the silver medalist in London and Moscow, lead the field in the women's high jump.
Parchment, Andrew Riley will be among the elite hurdlers set to run the men's shuttle hurdle relay.