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Let’s talk about Iowa track

Perhaps it’s time to start paying a bit more attention.

That Aaron Mallett guy? He’s pretty good. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

There are some good things going on in the Iowa men and women’s track programs.

Wait, you might be asking, the Hawkeyes are good at track? Well, up until this year you’d probably be right up there with the Iowa athletic department in just how much they openly cared about men’s and women’s track, but I digress.

Perhaps that’s a little hot-takey and the track and field team does have one of the highest operating costs of all the Iowa sports — $3,744,015 with the men’s and women’s teams expenditures combined. It’s not like they’re dying for cash, as the men’s team got $282,760 in outside contributions last year. Surprisingly though, the women received quite a bit less — just $40,965.

Travel is expensive, as the teams travel to California, Florida, Arizona, and Arkansas nearly every year. NCAA Outdoor Championships are also in Oregon, which is yet another a long flight.

Here’s a tidbit though — the men’s track team, in 2011, is the last (outside of 2015 wrestling) to win a team Big Ten title. The wrestling team didn’t even win it outright, they shared it with Ohio State.

Pretty crazy, is it not?

However, in the last year a little justice has been served. After years of sharing its indoor track with the Iowa recreation department, the team finally has a building to itself.

They also got a new indoor track, brought from Oregon, where it was used for the 2016 NCAA indoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore. Yes, you can break indoor tracks into small pieces, ship them across the country and rebuild them somewhere else. It’s absolutely gorgeous, came with a $2.6 million price tag and was one of the first big investments in the program in a long time.

There still isn’t a whole lot of room for stands in the building, but it’s a step in the right direction. Already, bigger-name teams have come been brought in which is huge for the exposure of the program.

In case you’re not aware, track season is broken up into two parts — indoor and outdoor track. The indoor season is over and the Hawkeyes had 8 All-Americans at the NCAA Championships.

Brittany Brown finished 5th in the 200-meters (22.92) to lead Iowa individually. The Hawkeye men’s 4x400 team also finished fifth while Aaron Mallett finished 8th in the 60m hurdles.

They weren’t strangers, either. Brown is one of the best sprinters in the nation and her outdoor 200m time — 22.73 — ranks sixth best in the country. Iowa also has one of the better throwing programs in the nation Laulauga Tausaga is ranked seventh on the women’s side in discus while Reno Tuffuli has the fourth-best throw in the nation in the same event for the men.

Likewise, Mallett is one of the best hurdlers in the nation and it would seem a number of athletes on this squad would have a chance to compete professionally — Iowa certainly has history of doing that. Mallett has four Big Ten Championships in the 110 hurdles and finished 5th in the event in 2015. Last season he was 3rd in the indoor NCAAs.

One of the main reasons he came here? Joey Woody, the Iowa director of track and field. Or, easier, the head coach of both the men and women.

Yes, that’s not a typo, he oversees both programs. Back in 2008, Iowa decided to switch to a system where one coach is in charge of both men’s and women’s track. It helps teams out quite a bit, actually, with the biggest boon being that assistant coaches aren’t tied to just one gender — they can work with both.

It’s very common in the NCAA to do this. At the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships, 23 of the top 25 men’s programs and 20 of the 25 women’s programs were combined.

It’s paid off for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has a good set of assistant coaches and they’re being paid. Iowa shelled out $167,136 in assistant coaching salaries for both teams. In case you’re wondering, the head coach position is listed on Iowa’s athletic budget as $145,975, though it’s unclear if Woody and/or his assistant coaches get to double-dip. Best guess is that they likely do.

They’ve certainly been earning that money.

The women’s team has had an all-American 5 of the last 6 years and six individual Big Ten Championships over the last three years. On the men’s side, they’ve had All-Americans 11 straight years and 26 events reaching all-American status in the last two.

There’s also been a steady line of Big Ten champions for the Hawkeyes on the men’s side — 7 in a row and they’ve always had at least 3 winning events in each of those.

With all this success (oh, Iowa’s had former athletes represent them in the last three Olympics) it’s sort of surprising the Hawkeyes have just one outdoor meet a year — Musco Twilight.

There’s actually a fairly simple reason — Iowa doesn’t have lights at Cretzmeyer Track, the home of the Hawkeyes. Musco, a lighting company, brings in portable lights for the event (on April 22nd this year, you should go!) and the event is allowed to run.

At some point, plans for a new track and field complex were drawn up and certainly exist, somewhere. Cretzmeyer is kind of in a strange location, next to the softball field, and parking can sometimes be a hassle.

There also isn’t a functioning permanent press box or particularly nice stands. It makes sense why they don’t host a lot of events.

It’s just a little surprising they can’t add permanent lights.