May 12, 2016
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By JORDAN BUCHER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — In a sport of 21 individual events, it still takes a team to win a championship. The University of Iowa track and field team heads into the 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska, this week with eight top seeds – women (5) and men (3) – and 20 more in scoring position for the men (13) and women (7).
“Our team eats dinner together almost every night and we always talk about depth and the Big Ten Championships,” said junior captain Mitch Wolff. “We have some pretty big point-scorers this year. We continue to keep putting up more and more paper points, and I feel like that will stay true to the meet itself.”
On paper, both the Hawkeye men and women have the points to contend for a Big Ten team title — a first for the women, and a first since 2011 for the men — but paper points only mean so much.
“Just because I have the fastest time on paper doesn’t mean I’m going win every race,” said senior captain MonTayla Holder. “If we all hit on Sunday, then no team can beat us. That’s the ultimate goal — to get what we have on paper. I believe we have the best sprinters and hurdlers in the Big Ten. We’re small, but we’re mighty.”
The Hawkeye men finished third at last year’s championships, while the women’s squad came in eighth. What is promising this year, though, is the load of young talent on the men’s side, while the women climbed eight spots in one year to finish fifth at the 2016 indoor championships with only one first-time point-scorer.
“The difference this year is that we’re a much closer team,” Holder said. “We learned how to run and compete for each other. We have grown and matured, and just know what to do. This is not foreign to us anymore. We know how to be elite and great competitors; it’s all about maturing, and that’s what we did.”
In addition to returning 11 point-scorers from last year’s championships, Iowa boasts a fresh crop of competitors that includes seven freshmen — Christian Brissett, Taylor Chapman, DeJuan Frye, Briana Guillory, Mar’yea Harris, Noah Larrison, Reno Tuufuli — who make up 10 of Iowa’s paper point-marks.
“For being so young, they’re all professional in what they do,” Wolff said. “They honestly don’t need my advice. I’m old, and my group is almost all freshmen. All they want to do is kick my butt. They don’t need to know or do anything else other than just go compete like they’ve been doing all season.”
Wolff, who is competing for his first Big Ten title in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, will battle for a little more than that this weekend.
“DeJuan, Mar’yea, Noah, and I made a bet at dinner to see who would score more points at Big Tens — the 400 guys or the 400 hurdlers. Losers buy winners ice cream,” said Wolff, who believes that inner competitiveness is what prepares them to put up big marks against other teams.
“We need to score as many points at the Big Ten meet as possible,” said Wolff. “Our group is extremely competitive and it’s just another incentive to keep everyone in the right mindset.”
The Hawkeyes contend for the Big Ten championship starting Friday at noon (CT) and continuing through Sunday. BTN2Go will stream the Championships live Sunday at 1:40 p.m. (CT). BTN will air the championships tape-delayed at 6 p.m.