May 30, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Disappointment turned to jubilation within 24 hours for University of Iowa freshman Aaron Mallett at the NCAA West Track & Field Preliminary at John McDonnell Field.
On Thursday, Mallett finished 37th in the 400-meter hurdles in 52.68 — much slower than his season best of 51.78. On Friday, Mallett was third in his heat and 12th overall in the 110 high hurdles with a season-best 13.96. He will compete in the quarterfinals Saturday at 7:05 p.m. (CT). The top 12 finishers advance to the NCAA Finals from June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon.
Mallett and UI assistant coach Joey Woody sat down after the 400 hurdles and had a heart-to-heart discussion about focus and competition.
“To be able to erase that and flush that and get ready for the next day shows a mature competitor,” Woody said. “That’s what we’re looking for in these young athletes.”
Mallett let his youth show when he admitted that he views several of the hurdlers he competes against as celebrities.
“I see these guys on TV and the fact I’m running against them and about the same times as them is kind of crazy,” Mallett said. “It’s a surreal feeling and I like it.”
Mallett’s previous best time in the 110 hurdles was 13.98 set April 12; on Friday he ran 13.96 into a 1.4 mile per hour headwind.
“I got out and I was kind of behind but I’m used to that, sorry to say,” Mallett said. “My power is not there yet. I have to keep lifting. I could see those guys move and I told myself to stay in my lane and stay in my race.”
Mallett continued to progress, making up ground between the third and seventh of 10 hurdles.
“I kept stepping down like (coach) Woody told me and I came through the line,” said Mallett, who finished behind Trevor Brown of Colorado State (13.67) and Vanier Joseph of Illinois (13.71) in his heat. After crossing the finish line, Mallett slapped his hands, pumped his right fist into the air and exhaled.
So what was the difference between setback and success?
“I had more confidence and drive,” Mallett said. “I want to go to NCAAs my freshman year.”
For Mallet, that means blocking out any goal-time aspirations and concentrating on execution.
“He is capable of running 13.8 or 13.7 and I think that will get him to the next round,” Woody said. “He has as good of a shot as anybody to be in the top 12.”
As a junior at McCluer North High School near St. Louis, Mallett won the 110 hurdles and was runner-up in the 300 hurdles. A year ago as a senior, he repeated as 300 hurdle champion, but was disqualified in the 110 hurdles for hurdle encroachment.
It will be a busy — and early — Saturday for the Hawkeyes. Seniors Ashlyn Gulvas and Jasmine Simpson, and junior Annemie Smith all compete in the women’s hammer throw beginning at 10 a.m. (CT). The UI women’s 4×400-meter relay is scheduled for a 9:45 p.m. start.