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April 14, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — Grand Blue Mile race officials announced a prestigious field of invitational championship participants in addition to the expected 3,500 recreational and competitive runners for the seventh-annual event. On April 26, track and field Olympians and World Champions will compete for $30,000 in prize money in the men’s and women’s invitational championships.

The 2014 USA Men’s 1 Mile Road Champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano and two-time Olympian Nate Brannen will headline the men’s invitational division. These two competitive athletes will be joined by handful of other elite athletes racing for the top prize of $5,000 and the potential of a $2,500 bonus for setting a new course record.

Returning for her sixth-consecutive Grand Blue Mile appearance is defending women’s invitational champion Heather Kampf. The three-time USA 1 Mile Road Champion and crowd favorite will attempt to best her own course record of 4:32:62, set in 2014. She will be tested by 2012 Olympic semifinalist and 2014 World Indoor Championship bronze medalist Nicole Sifuentes.

“Get excited for another year of high-caliber, competitive athletes committed to the Grand Blue Mile,” said Chris Verlengia, Wellmark corporate sponsorship manager. “Our 2016 running will have something for everyone and promises to be a must-see for even the most casual fan.”

While Grand Blue Mile kicks off Drake Relays week, it also marks the beginning of a busy track and field season in an Olympic year. The U.S. Olympic Trials for track and field start July 1, in Eugene, Oregon.

“Grand Blue Mile has always provided a good preview of what to expect from America’s top talent later in the outdoor season, but there is certainly added enthusiasm with the Olympics being held this summer in Rio,” said Verlengia. “We’re honored to host some of the stars of competitive running and serve as the first stop in their pursuit of Olympic gold.”

Registration open for Grand Blue Mile

New this year, Grand Blue Mile is a Healthiest State Initiative endorsed event. Registration fees are $15 for youth and $25 for adults. As part of Wellmark’s commitment to improving the health of Iowans, event proceeds benefit Iowa Kidstrong school fitness programs and the Drake Relays. Visit grandbluemile.com External Site to register for the race, view the course map, find training tips, and get spectator information.

About the Grand Blue Mile

The Grand Blue Mile is an annual one-mile fitness run/walk sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, in partnership with Nationwide and the Drake Relays, to engage individuals at all stages of fitness, encourage healthy habits and empower positive change. The annual wellness event includes recreational, competitive and invitational events featuring a field of elite male and female track and field athletes from around the world. Proceeds from the event benefit Iowa Kidstrong, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting healthy, active lifestyles among youth. For more information about the Grand Blue Mile, visit www.grandbluemile.com External Site.

About Wellmark

Wellmark, Inc. does business as Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa. Wellmark and its subsidiaries and affiliated companies, including Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc., insure or pay health benefit claims for more than 2 million members in Iowa and South Dakota. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Dakota, and Wellmark Health Plan of Iowa, Inc. are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.