Aaron Mallett walked into the mixed media room and leaned on the metal railing that separated the reporters from the athletes.
The relief was obvious in his face and his actions. His eyes darted back and forth as he was asked questions and his shoulders were a little slumped, almost as if a weight had been taken from him.
A Drake Relays title was something that has eluded the Iowa senior for years. As his head coach, Joey Woody would later put it, Mallett had gold medalists and athletes who later turned professional in his heats before.
It was, finally, his time. He won the 110-meter hurdles in 13.47, the 4th-best time in nation, on a rainy, windy, and chilly Saturday at the Drake Relays.
“I really wanted a flag before I graduated,” Mallett said. “I know that if I can keep running times like this, especially in weather like this, it gives me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
He’s had his disappointments at the Relays, to be sure. In 2014, he missed the cut for the finals of the 110m hurdles, finishing 9th. In 2015, he disqualified. Last year, he came in 3rd.
But on this day, Mallett would not be denied and neither would the Hawkeyes as a team. The Iowa men and women’s track teams would combine to win five Drake Relays titles over the three-day event, an impressive showing as the team rapidly heads towards Big Ten and NCAA Championship season.
Little from Aaron Mallett. He won the 110HH in 13.47, which is the 4th best time in the nation. His first Drake Relays title. pic.twitter.com/ZzbeHGHAKb— Jordan Hansen (@jordyhansen) April 29, 2017
In addition to Mallett’s victory in the 110-meter hurdles, the Hawkeyes won the men’s 4x800, the men’s discus, the men’s spring medley, the men’s 4x400 and the women’s 4x100. The Iowa men also won the Hy-Vee cup, which is given to the team that does the best in the university-level events.
It was, all in all, just about the best weekend Woody could have asked for.
“It sets us up well for the Big Ten Championship and was really just a lot of fun,” Woody said. “We expect success every time we step on the track.”
There are three events left for the Hawkeyes this year — the Big Ten championship, the NCAA West preliminaries and the NCAA Championships. There are a number of Iowa tracksters that should qualify for the event, including Mallett.
Iowa’s 4x400 team of Collin Hofacker, Emmanuel Ogwo (yes, the former football player), DeJuan Frye and Mar’yea Harris should make it, as well as discus thrower Reno Tuufuli. Laulauga Tausaga should as well in the women’s discus and Brittany Brown is one of the best female 200m sprinters in the nation.
Throwing is so much about minute movements it's amazing. pic.twitter.com/k780F5UrXH— Jordan Hansen (@jordyhansen) April 29, 2017
But that’s getting a little ahead and certainly isn’t a complete list. The Drake Relays were incredibly rainy this year, making it hard to get a good grasp on just where the Hawkeyes are as a team. That said, they certainly aren’t in a bad place.
The men’s team will absolutely threaten for a Big Ten title and while the women’s team is a little down, comparatively, there still should be an opportunity for some impressive individual performances.
If anything, Drake revealed that Iowa could handle adverse conditions, a really good thing to see if you’re a coach.
“We came out and performed really well,” Woody said. “We’re gonna rest up, get fresh legs, fresh minds and get ready for the rest of the season.”
Iowa events finishing in the top-8
4th, Ian Eklin, 29:47.06
Women’s shot put
4th, Nia Britt, 14.94m
Men’s shot put
2nd, Reno Tuufuli, 17.92m
7th, Avery Meyers, 16.87m
6th, Laulauga Tausaga, 46.68m
1st, Reno Tuufuli, 59.34m
3rd, Avery Meyers, 54.97m
Men’s triple jump
6th, Antwon James, 14.47m
3rd, Taylor Chapman, Jalynn Roberts-Lewis, Talia Buss, Tashee Hargrave, 1:38.82
2nd, Brendan Thompson, Jared Ganschow, DeJuan Frye, Collin Hofacker, 1:23.73
1st, Matt Manternach, Tysen VanDraska, Will Teubel, Carter Lilly, 7:24.77
6th, Nathan Mylenek, 9:12.68
Women’s sprint medley
7th, Taylor Chapman, Jalynn Roberts-Lewis, Tashee Hargrave, Tia Saunders, 3:59.51
Men’s sprint medley
1st, Christian Brissett, Emmanuel Ogwo, Mar’yea Harris, Carter Lilly, 3:20.40
Men’s distance medley relay
3rd, Anthony Chaidez, 1:53.98
7th, Matt Manternach, 1:57.53
Men’s 400m hurdles
3rd, Noah Larrison, 51.55
5th, Mitch Wolff, 51.78
7th, Chris Douglas, 52.39
Men’s 110m hurdles
1st, Aaron Mallett, 13.47
5th, Tess Wilberding, 4:32.80
1st, Taylor Chapman, Briana Guillory, Alexis Hernandez, Brittany Brown, 45.17
2nd, Christian Brissett, O’Shea Wilson, Brendan Thompson, Aaron Mallett, 39.72
1st, Collin Hofacker, Emmanuel Ogwo, DeJuan Frye, Mar’yea Harris, 3:07.35