By Andrew Donlan
As the Iowa track and field team nears a new indoor season, there’s a level of excitement and expectation that will be unlike any in its recent history.
The hype is certainly earned, with the Hawkeyes coming off a historic season in 2017 that included five Big Ten titles and a top-20 finish for the men’s team for the first time since 1967.
Jason Wakenight, the recruiting coordinator and an assistant coach, looks forward to returning runners making strides, starting with Mar’yea Harris.
“Mar’yea is doing some spectacular things in training that I haven’t seen him do yet in his career,” Wakenight said. “I expect him to compete for a national title.”
Harris was the runner-up in the Big Ten 400 meters in both indoor and outdoor last season, and he was also a top-10 finisher in the 400 meters in the country.
“I feel amazing, and I think I’ll have my best season yet,” Harris said. “I haven’t been dealing with any aches and pains, and I’ve constantly been hitting new personal records in practice.”
Although they weren’t here to make their mark last season, Wakenight said, he has also been pleased with some of the recruits who arrived on campus this past fall.
One freshman in particular, Raymonte Dow, caught Wakenight’s eye.
“He was one of the top-three hurdlers in the country in high school,” Wakenight said. “He’s already opened my eyes and surprised me, both with his endurance and his foot speed. He has a lot of tools that are going to make him nationally elite from the get-go.”
Iowa also returns top runners on the women’s side, including first-team All-American Brittany Brown.
Brown was the 200-meter Big Ten champion last year and placed fifth at the NCAA meet.
“This is my last year, and I’ve improved in the weight room a lot in the offseason, which was my main goal,” Brown said. “The girls are a lot more focused going into this year, and we’ve been pushing each other to get better.”
Teammate Laulauga Tausaga also earned All-American honors in the spring, placing seventh in discus at the NCAA Championships. She also led the team in shot put, where she threw the fourth best in Iowa history: 15.09 meters.
Joey Woody, Iowa’s director of track and field, enters his fourth season at the helm of the Hawkeyes. He has led Iowa to 24 Big Ten individual titles, five conference relay titles, and 75 All-American honors.
Considering the success of last year’s team, the Hawkeyes have a lot to look forward to as their first intrasquad meet approaches, on Saturday.
Barring a setback, this looks to be Woody’s best team yet.
“The best is yet to come,” Woody said last season in an interview with Hawkeye Sports. “I don’t say that it’s a hope or a dream, but an expectation that we will be a top team in the country.”