By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — This is the second of a five part series previewing the University of Iowa track and field team’s indoor season. The second installment previews the Hawkeye middle distance and long sprints.
The Hawkeyes return two runners on the women’s side from their record-setting 4×400 meter relay group that was a Big Ten Champion and national qualifier both indoor and outdoor. Senior Alexis Hernandez and sophomore Brianna Guillory are back and both rank in Iowa’s top 10 all-time in the 400 meters.
“We’ve got Alexis back from that relay last year,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “She’s been training at an extremely high level and so a lot is going to be riding on her to help the younger group take that next step too. She is going to be a good leader in that group.”
Guillory will be one of the athletes that will be under Hernandez’s wing, the sophomore is the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and is looking to take that next step. Learning from a Big Ten finalist in Hernandez is exactly what she will need.
The men’s middle distance returns breakout star Mar’yea Harris who ranks in Iowa’s top 10 all-time in the 400-meters.
“After having such a great freshman year, Harris has been a great leader for that 400 meter group,” Woody said. “
Harris starts his sophomore campaign as Iowa’s top runner in the 400 meters from a year ago, finishing sixth in the Big Ten in 2016. Harris was also joined by junior Carter Lilly, senior Jared Ganschow, and senior Mitch Wolff in the 4×400 meter relay.
“We are looking to continue to build on what we did last year,” Woody said. “Our 4×400 meter relay just missed making the indoor national meet by one place last year.”
ATHLETE POISED FOR A BREAKOUT YEAR
Redshirt freshman Emmanuel Ogwo enters his first year on the team after spending the first part of his collegiate career on the Hawkeye football team. Ogwo was recruited heavily by Iowa in both football and track in hopes he could do both. This season he has fully committed his time to track and hasn’t missed a step since his high school days.
“He is a year out of competing,” Woody said. “A year out of competing can take a little out of your performances, but he has been competing pretty impressively lately.”
Ogwo ranks 22nd nationally in the 200 meter dash, according to tfrrs.org.
FRESHMEN TO WATCH
In middle distance, the team has a young core on women’s side. The coaches are hoping to quickly develop a group that includes freshmen Tia Saunders, Taylor Arco, Mallory King, and Haley Schroeder.
“It’s a very young group, but I am excited about who we have.” Woody said. “Coach (Jason) Wakenight has done a great job of developing that group. We need to stay focused on training and competing at a high level throughout the season.”