Feb. 26, 2016
- Read the February issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPad and iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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 — University of Iowa juniors Aaron Mallett and Elexis Guster are defending Big Ten outdoor champions and two-time All-Americans, but one thing missing from their pile of accomplishments is a Big Ten indoor title.
“That’s next on my bucket list,” said Mallett, who finished runner-up in the men’s 60-meter hurdles at the 2015 Big Ten Indoor Championships. “Winning Big Tens, whether indoor or outdoor, is a huge accomplishment, but now I want the indoor title. There’s a lot of focus going into this weekend.”
The St. Louis native will face a familiar foe in defending Big Ten champion Oladapo Akinmoladun of Nebraska, whom Mallett edged out by 0.01 seconds at the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 12.
“There are a lot of talented guys, so I will never fall asleep on anybody,” Mallett said. “I don’t have one particular rival, but Oladapo is one of the most competitive. He’s always going to show up and perform. It’s going to be just as good of a race with him as with everybody else in the Big Ten. I can’t wait.”
Mallett has led the conference in the 60-meter hurdles since the start of the season and ties for seventh nationally with a personal-best 7.71.
“I like having a target on my back,” Mallett said. “It’ll push me to go harder.”
While Mallett enjoys being chased, Guster is used to succeeding as the underdog — she has done it twice when she won back-to-back Big Ten outdoor championships in the women’s 400 meters; first as a freshman, and then as a sophomore with a bad hamstring.
This time seems to be no different.
“I’m not negative, but I’ve been having issues with my hamstring again,” Guster said. “I had the same problem at outdoor Big Tens, so coach told me to be positive because I’ve been through it before. I think I do better because I don’t think too much. I just use whatever I have and go with it. It seems to be a coincidence this always happens at big meets, but I always come out on top.”
After finishing fourth a year ago, the Atlanta native enters this weekend seeded second in the 400 meters behind Purdue’s Symone Black. The pair last went head-to-head at the Meyo Invitational on Feb. 6 when Black came from behind to finish ahead of Guster. Guster redeemed herself by holding off Black on the anchor leg of Iowa’s winning 1,600-meter relay.
“I know Black is a strong competitor, but so am I,” Guster said. “The 4×4 can attest to that. I’m not going to underestimate anybody.”
The Big Ten crown is not the only thing weighing on Guster’s mind. This weekend serves as the last chance to make her first NCAA indoor appearance.
“I’m the type of person who wants more from myself,” Guster said. “Indoors is harder to make nationals because it’s only the top 16 and there are no regional rounds like the outdoor season. I want to not only be a competitor outdoors but indoors, too. I came to compete and win.”
The Big Ten Indoor Championships begins Friday at 9 a.m. (CT) and continue through Saturday at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.