April 23, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Joey Woody has circled the blue oval at Drake so many times he’s running out of firsts.
In 1992, he won his first Outstanding Performer award.
In 1994, he became the first athlete to win the Outstanding Performer award as both a high school and college competitor.
In 2002, he made his first appearance as a Drake Relays Hall of Famer.
And this weekend, eight years after running his final Relays lap as a professional, Woody will make his first appearance on the blue oval as University of Iowa director of track and field.
“The Drake Relays, that’s what track and field is all about to me,” said Woody. “To get the opportunity to be in your state, on what I consider one of our home tracks, in front of the Iowa fans is a great opportunity for our student-athletes and program.”
Woody won 10 Drake Relays flags as a competitor at Iowa City High School, the University of Northern Iowa, and as a professional.
He has represented his school and his colors as well as any other individual, but starting this weekend he no longer represents himself. Instead, he has 21 Hawkeyes representing his legacy, none of whom were even born when Woody won his first Relays flag.
“They’re too young (to know about my history), but they understand that this is a great opportunity,” Woody said. “Being the head coach now, and to go there for my first time, I want to have a big presence this weekend, and I think our student-athletes have expectations for the whole team.”
Like his coach before him, sophomore Aaron Mallett is making a national name for himself in the hurdles. Mallett’s personal best 13.60 in the 110-meter hurdles ranks second in the nation and No. 1 in the Big Ten.
He stumbled in his Drake Relays debut last season, placing ninth in the prelims and missing the finals, but says he has since adjusted to life on the big stage.
“Last year I was getting used to the experience of Drake,” Mallett said. “This year I’m going in with one of the top times in the country, and I want to win in front of the Iowa crowd.”
Woody competed at NCAA and World Championships, but he said the Drake crowd is unlike any other.
“It’s unique because it’s not just having great fans, it’s knowledgeable fans,” he said. “They understand what it’s like to be able to compete at the highest level because they’ve seen World champions and Olympic champions compete right in front of their eyes. It’s exciting for us to have that special event right here at home.”