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Athletes help with flood relief efforts

DES MOINES, Iowa | Athletes visiting Des Moines for the NCAA track championships pitched in to help contain flooding along the swollen Des Moines and Raccoon rivers.

Track athletes from South Carolina and Washington answered the city's plea for volunteers by filling sandbags on Friday and Saturday. City officials called for a mandatory evacuation in an area near downtown on Friday, about 1.5 miles from Drake Stadium.

South Carolina left its hotel along the Des Moines River on Friday because of rising water. But the team's captains, urged on by coach Curtis Frye, voted unanimously to volunteer. The Gamecocks sent 14 athletes to fill sandbags at the Polk County Sheriff's Office on Friday, emptying five truckloads of sand into bags.

"We didn't really expect it to happen. I didn't know it was going to affect us at all," junior shot putter Jason Cook said of the flooding. "I'm just glad we were able to help."

Washington assistant coach Jimmy Bean had gone by himself to help fill sandbags on Friday. Once he told the Huskies about it, five of them — including Jared O'Connor, who finished second in the pole vault — went to a park on the east side of Des Moines on Saturday morning to join him filling bags.

"It kind of restores the faith people have in other people when you do things like that," Bean said.

Both teams only sent athletes who had finishing competing.

Florida State did its best to chip in, sending 24 coaches, athletes and administrators to a sandbagging site after watching TV coverage of the flooding. But Florida State spokesman Michael Smoose said that by the time the Seminoles got there, officials already had enough volunteers.

The floods didn't affect competition at the meet. But NCAA spokeswoman Kristen Jacob said that six teams were forced to move to different hotels because of the rising waters.

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