By Andrew Donlan
The Iowa track and field team will hit the road for the first time this weekend, with some athletes traveling to Nebraska for the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational and some competing at Notre Dame in the Meyo Invitational.
The meets will be the first outside the comfort of the Recreation Building. The first three meets — the Hawkeye Invitational, Larry Wieczorek Invitational, and Black and Gold Premier — were home meets.
“We’ve got the opportunity to go against some good Big Ten competition and take the next step forward,” Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said.
The Black and Gold Premier served as an extra meet for the younger Hawkeyes to compete before traveling.
“That’s why we had this meet, for some of our younger athletes to keep racing,” Woody said. “It’s kind of hard for the second meet of your college career to be up against LSU and Florida State. A lot of these young athletes now come off this week with a lot more confidence.”
LSU and Florida State represented just a fraction of the talent that was at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational two weeks ago. The Black and Gold Premier featured fewer professional athletes and more regional college teams.
The team will split up based on their respective events this weekend. Nebraska and Notre Dame’s tracks have different features that will suit some athletes better than others. The long distance runners prefer the bigger track that Nebraska has, and sprinters prefer the shorter Notre Dame track.
Jahisha Thomas, who set a school record at the Black and Gold Premier in the triple jump, also prefers the Notre Dame set-up.
“I would prefer to go to Notre Dame, because I’d rather compete on its runway,” Thomas said.
She used the Black and Gold Premier to compete once at home before this weekend after being out with an injury for the first two meets.
Thomas is one of the Hawkeyes leading the Big Ten right now in their events. The other Big Ten leaders include Brittany Brown in the 200 meters, Briana Guillory in the 400 meters, Chris Douglas in the 60-meter hurdles, and the men’s 4×400 relay team.
There are also many Hawkeyes ranked nationally.
Though All-American Mar’Yea Harris didn’t compete in the Black and Gold Premier, his outlook on the beginning of the team’s season is overwhelmingly positive.
“I think this is the best start we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “We have a lot of people in the national rankings, and a lot of people have set personal records.”
In the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association rankings, the Iowa men were ranked 27th and the women were ranked 31st. They began the year 32nd and 34th.
The Hawkeyes have three more meets, at Iowa State, Arkansas, and Notre Dame again, before the Big Ten indoor championships in late February.