By Andrew Donlan
The Iowa track and field team is in the midst of a transition between the indoor and outdoor seasons. Athletes who qualified will head to College Station, Texas, Friday and Saturday for the NCAA Indoor Championships.
The other Hawkeyes are recovering from the indoor season and looking forward to the start of the outdoor season on March 16-17 at the Willie Williams Classic in Arizona.
For most of the athletes, the season wrapped up on Feb. 23-24 in Geneva, Ohio, at the Big Ten Championships. The women finished fifth at Big Tens, and the men finished seventh. There were both encouraging and discouraging takeaways from the event. Hawkeyes on both teams would have liked to finish higher, but the women had their highest point total (74) at the meet since 2007. The women won four events: the long jump, triple jump, 400 meters, and 200 meters, the most first-place finishes ever at the indoor championships.
According to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association rankings, the men and women came into the season ranked 32nd and 34th, respectively. After the Wieczorek Invitational, hosted by the Hawkeyes, the teams peaked in the rankings at 22nd for the men and 27th for the women.
There were highlights throughout the season, including an abundance of personal and school records. But the Wieczorek Invitational was a special weekend for Iowa track and field. The meet included such Olympic medalists as Aries Merritt and Georganne Moline and also featured top teams from the across the nation, including Arizona, Minnesota, Florida State, LSU, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa State.
The crowd was enraptured by the meet’s events throughout the day, all the way until the grand finale of the event, the 4×400 relay. That’s when the Hawkeyes asserted themselves as a nationally significant program, taking home first in both the women’s and men’s relay. The men trailed for about the whole race until Mar’yea Harris passed two opponents in the last 100 meters, outstretching LSU for the win at the last stride. The women trailed only because of a baton mishap, which was made up for by Briana Guillory’s 51.04-second split.
“After a long evening, there were still lots of people here and lots of people cheering,” former Iowa Track and Field Director Larry Wieczorek said. “I think it’s good for the sport of track and field and the Iowa track and field program. Even if you hadn’t been to a track and field event before, if you were here for an hour, you would’ve wondered what you were missing out on for all of these years.”
Although the men and women have dropped in the rankings since that meet, its significance was not diminished.
The indoor season also included school records from Laulauga Tausaga, who shattered the shot-put and weight-throw marks.
“Breaking these records is amazing to me,” Tausaga said. “It shows me that when I trust the process, I can achieve way more than I realize. I considered myself a discus thrower, but I’m finding out I have other strengths.”
Jahisha Thomas won both the triple jump and long jump at the Big Tens, becoming the first-ever Iowa champion in the long jump. She’s only the sixth athlete in Big Ten history to win both events.
“I was always thinking of winning them both,” Thomas told Hawkeye Sports. “I was thinking it into existence and train like you’re going to win both.”
Harris, Guillory, Chris Douglas, Thomas, Brittany Brown, and the men’s and women’s 1,600-meter relay teams will represent the team on Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Championships.