By Andrew Donlan
The Iowa track and field team has had an outdoor season marked with meet victories and outstanding personal-record performances. Regardless of where the Hawkeyes place in the Big Ten Championships this weekend, those performances will still be noted.
But the season won’t be as special without high finishes at the Big Tens in Bloomington, Indiana. After all, the squad has the relay teams and individuals to compete with the best in the conference.
In their last meet, the Drake Relays, the men took home their second-consecutive Hy-Vee Cup by taking first. A top finish followed by a weekend of rest should bode well for the team’s confidence heading into Bloomington.
Despite an impressive indoor season, however, the team faltered at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Going into the event, the team hoped to win a title either on the men’s or women’s side. In the end, the women finished fifth, and the men finished seventh.
Still, the Hawkeyes had impressive performances by Jahisha Thomas, who won the triple jump and long jump, and the men’s distance medley relay team. The team, consisting of Nathan Mylenek, Chris Thompson, Carter Lilly, and Michael Melchert, came from behind to capture Iowa’s first-ever title in the event.
In order to place better than fifth and seventh in the outdoor championships, the Hawkeyes need their best athletes to perform as well as they possibly can.
“This is the best we have looked this entire season,” Director of Track & Field Joey Woody told Hawkeye Sports. “Everybody is feeling healthy, and both the men and women have had great workouts over the last couple weeks.”
Since Woody became the director in 2015, the women’s team has taken home five Big Ten titles.
Iowa has three athletes in the top 10 in the country: Laulauga Tausaga is fifth in the discus, Jahisha Thomas is ninth in the long jump, and Will Dougherty is 10th in the decathlon.
Tausaga has broken school records in both the shot put and discus this outdoor season. On the men’s side, Reno Tuufuli has also had a superb outdoor season in the field. The pair’s success is imperative for a top finish this weekend.
Briana Guillory has already won two Big Ten titles in her time at Iowa. She won the 400 meters at the indoor championships and also finished second in the 200. As a freshman in 2016, she won the 200 and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
According to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association, the men and women both rank in the top 40 in the nation heading into the Big Tens. The Iowa women are 29th in the country, and the Iowa men are 38th.
Though the Big Ten is filled with formidable foes and many teams that rank ahead of Iowa in the national rankings, the Hawkeyes at their best are just as talented as anyone.