April 30, 2011
- Big Ten Championships – Iowa City, Iowa
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DES MOINES, Iowa – The University of Iowa track and field team concluded the 102nd Drake Relays with two school records and two relay champions bringing the flags home.
The women’s sprint medley team was the first to earn the coveted Drake Relays Flag at the finish line with their first place time of 3:48.63. Freshman Erin Jones was quick out of the blocks for the first 200 meters, but a fumbled handoff slowed senior Tiffany Hendricks on the second leg. Hendricks ran hard to get the baton to freshman Ashley Liverpool in good position. Liverpool rounded the track chasing Arkansas the entire length. Senior Bethany Praska was the 800-meter running anchor and chased the lead runner down and passed as the race closed to earn the Relays title. The effort by the Iowa foursome paid off with a meet title and a school record mark.
“We started off really well with Erin Jones getting out of the blocks,” senior Hendricks said. “She got the baton to me in a pretty good position, but we had a little bit of a fumble with the baton. We didn’t drop it, though. Ashley was right in the mix when she crossed the line and Bethany pushed out and ran like she always does and we came home with the win.”
The men’s sprint medley team was not to be shown up, running for the flag immediately following the women’s team. Zeke Sayon was the first of the foursome to carry the baton. Sophomore Justin Austin ran through the second two hundred before passing the baton on to senior All-American Steven Willey for the quarter mile. Willey sprinted around the track and got Erik Sowinski the baton in first place. Sowinski finished the 800 with ease, clocking a 1:46.9 split and crossing the finish line in 3:16.18.
“It was awesome,” Sowinski said of watching the women win in the race before. “Our girls have made a bunch of strides this year. Just being able to fuel off that made it that much more exciting.”
The women’s 1,600 meter relay team ran the fastest race in program history. The Hawkeyes finished fourth in the event, with a time of 3:35.93, knocking the previous record of 3:36. 26 set in 2006 off the top of the list. Praska was the first Hawkeye to round the track for the relay and handed off to classmate Hendricks for the second leg. Freshman Liverpool carried the baton through the third leg and gained some ground on the leading Arkansas team. Nicole Erickson was the final Hawkeye to run the quarter mile.
Sophomore All-American Jeff Thode’s valiant effort in the mile leg of the distance medley final nearly secured Iowa a third relay victory of the weekend. Thode’s 3:59.80 mile carried the Hawkeyes from eighth on the handoff to a third place finish, but not without a challenge for the top spot.
“Jeff Thode became a hero today with the Hawkeye and Drake Relay fans with his valiant effort in that race,” Head Coach Larry Wieczorek said. “He came from way behind to challenge for the win, and I think people really admire that effort because that is what sports is all about. He became an instant hero here at Drake Stadium.”
Senior Nick Kuczwara started the relay for the Hawkeyes, running 1,200 meters before handing off to Chris Barton for the 400 meter leg. Barton rounded the blue oval and passed the stick to senior Adam Hairston for the 800. Hairston gained some ground for Iowa before handing off to Thode for one of the most exciting runs of the weekend. Thode closed in on the leaders and pushed to the front in the last two hundred meters, but fell slightly behind on the home stretch. The Hawkeyes clocked a 9:41.37, a season best and second best time on Iowa’s all-time top-performances list.
Junior Matt Banse had a career best performance in the men’s hammer throw competition. Banse’s toss of 199-2 ½ (60.73m) ranks sixth on Iowa’s all-time top-performers list.
“It was crazy competition today,” Banse said of the elite competitors in the field. “It took 62 meters to make finals and I don’t think it has ever been that high. I threw a personal record at 199-something. I am happy with it, but not satisfied. It’s a great way to go into Big Ten Championships in two weeks. I’m looking forward to it.”
Freshman Carissa Leacock placed eighth in the women’s long jump competition. At her first Drake Relays, Leacock marked 19-7 (5.97) in the sand with her second jump of the competition.
Freshman Ethan Holmes ran collegiate best times in both the 400 meter hurdles and the 110 high hurdles. The Big Ten leader in the 400 meter hurdles bettered his time by .04 seconds, clocking 51.01 to take seventh in the race. The Clinton, Iowa native placed third in the 110-high hurdles with a time of 13.93.
Junior Troy Doris tied his season best mark of 51-5 (15.67m) to earn third place in the triple jump. The Bollingbrook, Ill. native has the second highest mark in the Big Ten this season and top-20 mark in the nation.
The Iowa men’s 4×400 team was featured in the final race of the 2011 Drake Relays. Willey was the lead leg for the team, clocking a 46.8 split before handing off to Holmes for the second 400. Sowinski continued his quick pace through the third quarter mile and Barton took the baton to finish the race. Barton challenged the leading two runners around the back of the track and pushed into the runner-up position, crossing the line at 3:07.23.
It was a great weekend for the Hawkeyes,” Joey Woody said. “We came out here with the intention of winning some relays and it was an exciting day. We just missed a couple that we thought we could have won. Overall, though, I was pleased. I was really impressed with Ethan Holmes this weekend. He did great in the 400 hurdles, 110 high hurdles and the 4×400. We had some guys really step it up big, especially Erik Sowinski in that distance medley. This was a really exciting weekend for us and we’re just going to keep building on this for the Big Ten Championships.”
The Hawkeyes will have a weekend off to prepare for final exams then be back in action in Iowa City at the Big Ten Championships. The conference meet is scheduled for May 13-15.