April 29, 2016
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DES MOINES, Iowa — University of Iowa junior Mahnee Watts cruised to the women’s 800-meter Drake Relays title at Drake Stadium on Friday afternoon. In a crowded field, the Bettendorf, Iowa, native made her move on the final homestretch to take the win in 2:07.93 over runner-up Amy Andrushko of North Dakota State (2:08.60).
“We were slow the first lap — we came through in 62 — so after that I knew I was in a good position to fight at least for the rest of the race,” Watts said. “Going into the last 300, we started to separate a little bit and I kind of got boxed in by four girls. I had to stay composed because I know I have a good kick. I knew if I stayed with the front girls I could kick the last 100.”
Watts’ win is the 19th Drake Relays title in women’s program history and the first in the 800 meters.
“I was really proud of Mahnee today,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “She came out and ran an extremely competitive race. She just had a lot of heart and a lot of fight in her race, and that’s an example that everyone needs to see. When she was coming down the homestretch she just had all that fire in her eyes that she’s going to win and that nobody was going to beat her. We just need to have more of that as we prepare for tomorrow.”
Watts was one four Hawkeye finalists Friday.
MonTayla Holder (58.64) finished fourth in the women’s 400-meter hurdles behind Big Ten foes Symone Black of Purdue (1st/57.72) and Ohio State’s Alexis Franklin (3rd/58.23). The senior owns the conference’s fastest time this season at 56.70, and will fight for the Big Ten championship in two weeks.
“I was hoping to run a little bit faster than that,” Holder said. “To run in the 58-range was kind of disappointing. [Black and I] are one and two in the Big Ten right now. No matter the time or the weather, [Big Tens] is going to be a good race.”
Three Hawkeyes and two relays advanced to Saturday’s final round.
Junior All-American Aaron Mallett earned an automatic bid to the men’s 110-meter hurdle final following a heat win in 14.03. Mallett competes for the top podium spot in a loaded field that features four nationally-ranked opponents at 2:44 p.m.
A heat win in the women’s 100-meter prelims automatically earned senior Lake Kwaza (11.66) a spot in the final at 2:20 p.m., while junior Vinnie Saucer, Jr. advanced by time in a season-best 10.36 to the men’s 100-meter final at 2:25 p.m.
The women’s 400-meter relay of Kwaza, junior Elexis Guster, and freshmen Taylor Chapman and Briana Guillory posted the fifth-fastest qualifying time of 45.03 for the chance to compete for the title at 3:14 p.m.
The second relay to move on was the women’s 1,600-meter quartet of junior Alexis Hernandez, Guillory, Holder, and Guster in 3:33.65, the school’s third-fastest time. The final is contested at 3:45 p.m.
“Not everything is going to go your way,” Woody said. “I was a little disappointed with the relays, and it started with the 4x1s. We blew a little bit of the wind out of our sails for the men. The women ran well, but I know we can run a lot faster.
“I was also a little disappointed with the men’s 4×4. We are trying to contend for a Big Ten championship, and we have to have our relays running and competing at the highest level. In a meet like this, we should be in the final. We should have both the men’s and women’s 4×1 and 4×4 in the finals.”
In addition to Friday’s qualifiers, the Hawkeyes compete in the women’s hammer throw (Leah Colbert), the men’s discus (Tuufuli, Avery Meyers), high jump (Kevin Spejcher, Peter Andreano), and 400-meter hurdles (Chris Douglas, Noah Larrison, Mitch Wolff), and the men’s and women’s sprint medley and distance medley relays.