Welcome to Tracktown, USA.
Eugene, Oregon is the site of the NCAA Track and Field Championships and 15 Iowa athletes are about to represent the school at the event. That’s cool for a whole bunch of reasons, but mostly this: it’s the largest number of qualifiers the Hawkeyes have ever sent to the NCAA finals. Seriously.
Iowa has never really been known as a Big Ten track powerhouse, but head coach Joey Woody has done an impressive job of putting together a team over the past few seasons and it’s starting to pay dividends.
As I’ve mentioned throughout the season, there’s a couple areas where Iowa is really quite good — hurdles, sprints, relays, and throwing events. All of those areas will be on display through the next couple days.
First up is Aaron Mallett (110m Hurdles) and Brittany Brown (200m dash). It’s hard to put into words just how good the pair have been, but I’m going to try.
Mallett, of course, has been here before. Finishing 14th last year and 5th the season before, he’s hungry. There’s no doubt he’s good enough to win the event, but a title has eluded him throughout the years. He’ll say that it’s his start that does him in, but man oh man, once he gets in rhythm there are few in his event who can match what he can do. He’s also the anchor on the 4x100 squad, so he’ll have two chances to leave a permanent mark in Iowa history.
There hasn’t been an Iowa NCAA champ in 60 years. That could change this season. Mostly, however, because it’s not just Mallett who has been special.
Brittany Brown is a tremendous talent. Woody has said she has the potential to be one of the best who has ever come through this school and he’s absolutely right. Brown’s 200m time is currently second-best in the nation. She’s a three-time NCAA qualifier and the junior — who suffered a number of injuries last year — has vengeance on her mind. Brown has come back better than ever, and with a good couple races, there’s no reason to think she can’t take the title. Certainly, Brown is good enough to do so.
CAN WE THROW IT? YES WE CAN.
Andrew Dubs, the Iowa throws coach, has done a tremendous job with his group of throwers. Please, take some time and give him credit. He’s a great coach and has sophomore Reno Tuufuli and freshman Laulauga Tausaga peaking at the right time.
Tausaga took the Big Ten discus title — the first of any Iowa female athlete, ever — while Tuufuli took first in the NCAA West Regional qualifying meet. Those tasks are incredibly difficult and should be celebrated as such.
And let’s not forget Avery Meyers, either. Dubs has said the senior has been critical in working with Tuufuli and has been an instrumental part of the Hawkeye throws squad. As the veteran voice of the group, he’s seen it all and has been a big part of this part of this group.
DON’T SLEEP ON THE REST
Oh, but the impressive Hawkeye athletes don’t end there. As I mentioned above, the men’s 4x100 relay (Christian Brissett, Mallett, Brendan Thompson, and O’Shea Wilson) as well as the 4x400 group (DeJuan Frye, Mar’yea Harris, Collin Hofacker and Emmanuel Ogwo) have both been special this season. There’s no reason to think they don’t have a serious shot at the finals.
Jahisha Thomas and Wilson will both be competing in the long jump, while Will Dougherty will be in the decathlon. Lastly, Antwon James will represent Iowa in the triple jump.
There’s a lot to like about this Iowa squad. Let’s see what they can do over the next couple days.