|IOWA CITY, Iowa — This is the first of a five part series previewing the University of Iowa track and field team’s indoor season.The first installment previews the Hawkeye sprints and hurdles.
Iowa returns a majority of its core runners in 2017, led by team MVPs Aaron Mallett and Brianna Guillory. Mallett returns for his senior season after winning the Big Ten Indoor title in the 60-meter hurdles and finishing third at the NCAA Indoor Championships in 2016.
Guillory is the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The second-team All-American entered Iowa’s all-time best performances list in her first year, ranking seventh in the 200-meters (23.69) and sixth in the 400-meters (54.42).
“We took things slowly with her,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “After a long season as a freshman, we wanted to be smart. She has been training well and is looking to do some big things in the sprints.”
Senior Vinnie Saucer, Jr., returns for his final season. At the 2016 Big Ten Indoor Championships, Saucer ran a career-best 6.70 to capture his first conference title. That time ranks second all-time in Iowa history.
The team also returns senior Alexis Hernandez, who was named a second-team All-American during the 2016 indoor season. Hernandez was on the school record-setting 1,600-meter relay that placed third at the Big Ten Championships.
“They are probably the strongest part of our group right now,” Woody said. “The sprints and hurdles have always been a strong part of our program, so I am excited with who we return from last year.”
ATHLETE POISED FOR A BREAKOUT YEAR
Brittany Brown, a 2014 Big Ten champion, returns for the 2017 season. After an injury riddled 2016 season, the junior from Upland, California, is ready for a clean slate.
“We didn’t want to rush her into things,” Woody said. “We were smart about how we transitioned her and we feel like that process will aid her in her development this year. She is training unbelievably.”
Brown led the team in the 200-meters with a time of 23.72 during the 2015 season and, in 2014, broke a 31-year-old school record in the 60-meters with a time of 7.41. That time now ranks second all-time in Iowa history.
“She is on a mission to do great things this year,” Woody said. “She wants to get back to the national meet and make a statement.”
FRESHMEN TO WATCH
Jenny Kimbro, the top hurdler out of Illinois in 2016, has been impressing coaches with her ability and potential. She has been training mostly as a multi-event athlete, but Woody sees her contributing in the short hurdles.
“She was highly recruited out of Illinois,” Woody said. “She is poised to do things in the short hurdles.”
For the men, redshirt freshman Antonio Woodard has been having great workouts and time trials. The coaching staff has high hopes for him in 2017.
“Antonio is the guy who is going to make a big statement,” Woody said. “He is a guy that is under the radar. He has the ability to make a statement in the 200-meters.”
The Hawkeyes have three more home meets before hitting the road for the Meyo Classic on Feb. 4, Iowa State Classic on Feb. 10, and Tyson Invitational on Feb. 11. Iowa’s final home indoor meets is on Feb. 17, followed by the team’s regular season finale, the Alex Wilson Invitational, on Feb. 18.