By Carter Melrose
The Iowa track and field team will compete in the Big Ten Championships in State College, Pennsylvania, this weekend.
The meet is coming at the perfect time for the red-hot men’s squad, which won the Drake Relays on April 29. The victory, which was bolstered by the the Hawkeyes’ aggressive and dominant relay teams, has now put Iowa as a legitimate Big Ten top-three finisher. Director of Track and Field Joey Woody believes that the relay performances this weekend could make or break the team.
“The reason I will always say the relays are significant for our program is because you start the meet off with the 4×100 on the last day of the championships and end the meet with the 4×400,” Woody said. “If we can go out and win both, that is 20 points in the final day for the men and the women.”
If the 4×100 and 4×400 are the keys to a Hawkeye victory, this year’s team seems to be in very capable hands. The men’s 4×400 and the women’s 4×100 are the tickets that could raise this year’s track and field team into the rafters and immortalize it forever.
The men’s 4×400, which toasted the field at Drake and leads the Big Ten, comprises freshman Emmanuel Ogwo, sophomore Mar’yea Harris, freshman Collin Hofacker, and junior Carter Lilly. Interesting enough, during the Drake Relays, Lilly anchored both the 4×400 and 4×800 and was able to solidify victories in both races. Lilly is becoming one of the most reliable anchors in the Big Ten, hands down.
The women’s 4×100, which leads the Big Ten, uses sophomore Taylor Chapman, sophomore Briana Guillory, senior Alexis Hernandez, and junior Brittany Brown. This same relay with Brown and Hernandez won the title in 2014 and will hope to bring back home the relay for Iowa.
“I feel like we have the right group to win both the men’s and women’s 4×100 and the 4×400 on the men’s side,” Woody said.
Speaking of Brown and her Big Ten-leading escapades on the 4×100 relay, she also leads the conference in her bread-and-butter race — the 200 meters. If Brown is unable to receive a top-two finish in this event during the Big Tens, the Hawkeye women’s team will have trouble accumulating a major point total come May 14.
A Big Ten Championship preview could not be written without bringing up senior hurdler Aaron Mallett. He wanted nothing more than to win the 110-meter hurdles at Drake — and he easily trotted to victory. This garnered Mallett the Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors on May 3. And as long as Mallett does not hit a hurdle and runs the time he is capable of running, it is his race to lose. He leads the Big Ten, and there is a target on his back because of it.
“We have athletes who can perform at a high level at the end of the meet,“ Woody said.