May 14, 2015
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — While the University of Iowa women aim for a repeat, the men are targeting a three-peat at the 2015 Big Ten Track and Field Outdoor Championships this weekend in East Lansing, Michigan.
The Hawkeyes won the men’s 400-meter relay for the first time in 12 years at the 2013 Big Ten Championships. One year later, they defended the title with four completely new faces. This year, two of those four legs return with a chance to bring home a third-consecutive conference title.
“I want to keep the streak going,” said Keith Brown. “I want to get a third one for Iowa. I want to keep it going and maintain the tradition.”
Brown anchors the relay for the second year in a row. Last season he took the baton from James Harrington and finished the title race in a then season-best 39.35.
Harrington is back on the third leg, but this year the first 200 meters go through Vinnie Saucer, Jr., and Aaron Mallett. Saucer replaces graduated All-American Tevin-Cee Mincy at the leadoff position, and Mallett runs the backstretch in place of 2014 MVP O’Shea Wilson, who is sitting out the season because of injury.
Those are fast shoes to fill, but because of Iowa’s depth, fast doesn’t equal impossible.
“I feel like this 4×1 could be faster than last year,” said Saucer, who is the top seed in the men’s 100 meters. “Hopefully we get to East Lansing, put on a good performance and do what we did at Musco. Do it all again and get first place.”
Iowa won the Musco Twilight on May 2 in 39.66, the second-fastest qualifying time in the conference. Illinois owns the fastest time at 39.56.
On the women’s side, Iowa’s quartet of Lake Kwaza, Elexis Guster, MonTayla Holder, and Brittany Brown, enter the Big Ten Championships with a season-best 44.93, a time that ranks third in the Big Ten.
Last season the women took the No. 1 seed into the conference finals and ended Ohio State’s three-year title run. And despite their underdog status this weekend, there is a confidence lurking that believes they can defend last year’s championship.
“I think we can do it. It is going to come down to competing and making sure the stick gets around as fast as possible. I remember the feeling from last year, and I want to repeat it again.”
“I think we can do it,” said Kwaza. “It is going to come down to competing and making sure the stick gets around as fast as possible. I remember the feeling from last year, and I want to repeat it again.”
Ohio State has the fasted time heading into the weekend at 44.45. Purdue is seeded second at 44.62. Iowa’s All-America quartet clocked a personal-best 44.62 at the 2014 Big Ten Championships, and they may need a repeat performance to earn a second-consecutive gold medal.
“We remember last year, and we’re trying to come back and prove ourselves,” said Brown. “Every year we’re trying to build our program and show how far we’ve come. We’re excited to be out there.”
The women’s 400-meter finals begin Sunday at 11:45 a.m. (CT). The men follow at 11:55 a.m. Michigan State University is hosting the 2015 Big Ten Championships at Ralph Young Field beginning Friday at 11 a.m. BTN will air the championships Sunday, May 24, at 10 a.m.