May 16, 2010
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Iowa City, IA — The University of Iowa wrapped up a weekend of post-season action at the 2010 Outdoor Big Ten Championships Sunday, crowning three Big Ten champions. Freshman Matt Byers in the javelin (220-6, 67.22m), junior Steven Willey in the 400-meter dash (46.12) and senior Ray Varner in the 400-meter hurdles (50.61) all came out as Big Ten champions for the first time in their career. These are the most individual champions Iowa has had since crowning six in 2001. As a team, Iowa’s men placed fourth with 86 points and the women’s squad placed tenth with 34. This is the men’s highest finish since 2006.
Minnesota took the men’s title while Penn State won the women’s championship. Each team won their respective indoor titles this season as well.
The paths to a championship for these three student-athletes have been completely different according to Men’s Head Coach Larry Wieczorek.
“Matt [Byers] was a stud in his javelin debut, leading the Big Ten as a freshman and a favorite to win today. It was especially terrific to see him perform this well coming off two performances that weren’t up to par. Willey has progressed from someone with modest high school credentials to a solid champion as a junior.”
Out of the three, Wieczorek says he was most nervous about Varner’s performance today, hoping the senior from Wadsworth, IL, could earn his first title in four strong years at Iowa.
“I’m thrilled about today, but I’m also very optimistic about the future. I think going forward, we can be an even better team than we are now…”
Men’s Head Coach Larry Wieczorek
“Ray [Varner] has been a pillar of our program for four years and I was very pleased that he could cap off his career at Iowa with his first Big Ten championship.”
Varner is only Iowa’s second individual to win a 400-meter hurdle title since Pat McGhee, Iowa’s record-holder in that event, did it three times in 1986, 1988, and 1989. Willey’s finish is a collegiate-best and moves him to fourth all-time at Iowa, and he is Iowa’s third 400-meter champion, the first since Andre Morris in 1996. Byers is Iowa’s fifth champion in the javelin, with Bill Neumann last winning it in 2003.
For the women’s squad, all three of their 1,500-meter competitors scored points. Sophomore Betsy Flood beat yesterday’s collegiate-best by over six seconds, coming in third today at 4:17.75, which raises her to second all-time at Iowa. Sophomore McKenzie Melander placed sixth (4:21.18) and junior Lauren Hardesty finished eighth (4:22.81), raising their placement in the Iowa record books to fifth and eighth, respectively. Flood also scored points in the 5,000 meters, placing sixth (16:34.26) with junior Amanda Hardesty tailing closely behind in seventh (16:37.01). Hardesty’s finish puts her directly behind Flood on Iowa’s all-time 5,000-meter performances at eighth.
Both 400-meter relay teams earned points Sunday, but could not improve on their preliminary performances from Saturday. The men’s squad of sophomores D’Juan Richardson, Stephen Bee, junior Zeke Sayon and freshman Patrick Richards finished at 40.55, only a tenth of a second slower than their winning Saturday preliminary time, but placed third Sunday against strong squads from Wisconsin and Illinois. The women’s team of juniors Karessa Farley, Kara-Aretha Graham, senior Rhonda-Kaye Trusty, and freshman Raven Moore matched Saturday’s placement, finishing in fifth Sunday at 45.91 to pick up four points.
Senior Rhonda-Kaye Trusty put points on the board for Iowa in the 100 and 200-meter dash.
Trusty also put points on the board for Iowa in the 100 (6th, 11.94) and 200-meter dash (3rd, 23.92). Sayon leads the Big Ten in the 100-meter dash but narrowly missed a championship Sunday, placing second at 10.64. Sophomore Erik Sowinski, Iowa’s indoor 800-meter record-holder, placed fifth in the 800-meter finals (1:49.39). Iowa’s discus record-holder, freshman Tiffany Medenwaldt, helped put points on the board for Iowa, placing eighth (159-9, 48.69m). Other competitors for Iowa include senior Caleigh Bacchus in the high jump (6th, 5-9 3/4, 1.77m), and Willey (4th, 21.55) and freshman Patrick Richards (7th, 21.89) in the 200-meter dash.
At the end of the day, Wieczorek is as excited looking back on this weekend’s events as he is looking forward.
“I’m thrilled about today, but I’m also very optimistic about the future. I think going forward, we can be an even better team than we are now and I’m really excited about what we might be able to do when we host the 2011 Big Ten Outdoor Championships at home in Iowa City.”
In this year’s championship format, the top 48 athletes nationally in each event, except the decathlon, will earn first round NCAA berths, while the top 24 decathletes will earn NCAA Championships berths. After declaring participants this week, the first round of the NCAA Championships will kick of in two weeks on May 28 for Iowa in Austin, TX.