Dec. 15, 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.
By JORDAN BUCHER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The indoor track and field season serves a dual purpose for the University of Iowa hurdles group in 2016.
The men return two-time All-American and Big Ten Outdoor champion Aaron Mallett in the 60- (indoor) and 110-meter hurdles (outdoor), along with All-American Mitch Wolff (400-meter hurdles).
Sophomore Jahisha Thomas (60-meter hurdles) and senior MonTayla Holder (400-meter hurdles) headline the women’s group.
Both sides have the talent to win today, but they train indoors with one eye on tomorrow. And that means building endurance for the outdoor season.
“I’ve learned over the years that a lot of (outdoor) 400-meter hurdlers train at longer distances like the 600 and 800,” Holder said. “I like to over-train because the 800 is one of the hardest races in track and it prepares you for the 400-meter hurdles, which is a hard and technical race. The transition goes hand-in-hand.”
Holder is no stranger to indoor success — she ranks among the school’s all-time leaders in the 600 and 800 meters. However, the Indianapolis native still identifies as a 400-meter hurdler, having finished fourth at last year’s Big Ten Championships.
Wolff closed the 2015 campaign with second-team All-America honors and a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, and he’s opening his final season surrounded by resources he believes will push him to the next level.
“We are starting this season in better shape than we ever have,” Wolff said. “I have a strong group of teammates — including some talented freshmen — that push me harder than I’ve ever been pushed before. The competition is right here in my own group.”
The head of the class belongs to Mallett, who was Big Ten runner-up in the indoor 60-meter hurdles in February, and Big Ten champion in the outdoor 110-meter hurdles in May, downing the school record with a collegiate-best 13.40.
“His goal is to win the national championship,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “Right there you have an athlete who’s leading the program. You can see that burning desire to win in his eyes. He’s putting the work in and setting himself up for a big success.”
For the women, Thomas returns as the team’s top 60-meter hurdler, owning a collegiate-best 8.60, which ties for seventh all-time at Iowa.
“This is the first season I’m coaching Jahisha and MonTayla in the hurdles,” Woody said. “Jahisha has been to the first round of nationals in the long jump so our goal is to get to the national meet in the hurdles as well.
“For MonTayla, we want to send her out on a high note. Her training is going fantastic right now.”
The new coaching system will take some getting used to for Holder, who trained under coach Clive Roberts for three years.
“It was a scary switch, especially going from something you knew so well,” Holder said. “I could read coach Roberts like the back of my hand. I didn’t know how my body would react to Woody’s training, but he has all the knowledge in the world about this event; he did it professionally for 10 years. We’re both learning together, but now I’m in a good place and I’m excited for where this season will go.”
The Hawkeyes open the regular season Jan. 9 at the Border Battle in Champaign, Illinois.