April 30, 2016
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DES MOINES, Iowa — The University of Iowa track and field team swept the men’s and women’s sprint medley relays under rainy and cool conditions on the final day of the 107th Drake Relays at Drake Stadium on Saturday. Both relays had command of the race heading into the final leg.
“We definitely responded well today,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “I was excited and proud to see how the athletes came back from yesterday.”
Iowa last won the men’s and women’s sprint medley relays in 2011, which included three former Hawkeye All-Americans on the men’s (Justin Austin, Steven Willey, Erik Sowinski) and women’s (Tiffany Hendricks, Ashley Liverpool, Bethany Praska) side.
“Winning back-to-back sprint medleys, we’ve done it before, but today it was awesome because it was with groups that are young,” Woody said. “Mahnee [Watts] is really starting to put some great things together.”
Watts, a junior, who won the women’s 800 meters Friday, earned her second Drake Relays flag as the 800-meter anchor leg on the women’s sprint medley relay. She was preceded by senior Lake Kwaza and junior Elexis Guster on the 200-meter legs, while senior MonTayla Holder (400 meters) ran third. The foursome turned in a winning time of 3:52.62, a mark that ranks third on Iowa’s all-time list.
Immediately following, junior Vinnie Saucer, Jr. (200 meters), freshmen Christian Brissett (200 meters) and Mar’yea Harris (400 meters), and junior Carter Lilly (800 meters) delivered a dominating performance in the men’s sprint medley relay, winning by a 4.52-second margin over Illinois in 3:18.53.
“It was awesome in high school winning the [Drake Relays] 800, but a relay is so much cooler being able to celebrate with your teammates,” Lilly said. “They gave me the baton with a huge lead, so a lot of credit goes to them. I knew that as long as I was relaxed and just ran my race I’d be able to hold on for the win.”
The win marks the 53rd Drake Relays title and the fifth in the sprint medley relay for the Iowa men. The quartet enters the school’s top performers list in fifth.
“I think everyone really came into this relay with a chip on their shoulder,” Lilly said. “We were all pretty disappointed in our relays yesterday, so we wanted to make up for that. We came out and performed.”
Four Hawkeyes recorded top-three finishes in individual events Saturday.
Sophomore Noah Larrison ran the second-fastest time of the day in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, winning the final heat in 51.37.
Junior All-American Aaron Mallett ran his fastest wind-legal time of the season in the men’s 110-meter hurdle final to finish third in 13.58, while junior Vinnie Saucer, Jr. (10.46) also took home a bronze medal in the men’s 100 meters.
Redshirt freshman Reno Tuufuli recorded his best mark of the day on the opening throw in the men’s discus, placing third in 182-4 (55.59m).
The Hawkeye men (11 points) tied for eighth overall out of 20 teams, while the women’s squad (16 points) placed sixth in a 19-team field.
The Drake Relays was the final meet before Iowa heads to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the Big Ten Championships from May 13-15.
“The biggest thing is keeping people healthy and just getting them freshened up so they’re ready to go by Big Tens,” Woody said. “We have to be smart with training and balance that with the academic side of things, and make sure that everybody’s feeling good for Big Tens.”