IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa track and field team left for Geneva, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon to continue preparations for the 2017 Big Ten Track and Field Indoor Championships. The conference meet is hosted by the Spire Institute on Friday at Saturday.
“This is probably the best we’ve been heading into the Big Ten Championships as far as the athletes that are going to compete,” said UI director of track and field Joey Woody. “They’re healthy and they’ve been performing really well these last couple of weeks. The last two meets have been the best that we’ve had at this point in the season, so I’m excited.”
Iowa has a pair of student-athletes defending their Big Ten titles. Senior Vinnie Saucer is the reigning champion in the 60 meters, and senior Aaron Mallet returns to defend his conference title in the 60-meter hurdles. Mallett is the top seed and favorite to repeat, but he’s also chasing history.
“I really want to break the Big Ten record, but you have to win first,” said Mallett, who’s personal best is three one-hundredths of a second from the conference mark. “That’s my goal heading into the weekend. Win a championship and help my team with the points.”
Junior Brittany Brown is back in the postseason lineup after missing last season with an injury. Brown placed third in the 200 meters as a freshman in 2014 and was fourth as a sophomore in 2015.
“I’m excited to be back and see what I can put out there,” Brown said. “I’ve been putting in a lot of work and hitting personal bests in practice so I’m hoping it will all come together.”
The Hawkeyes enter the conference championships having already set seven school records, including a men’s 400 meters record that had stood for seven years, and a pair of horizontal jumps on the women’s side.
Sophomore Mar’yea Harris ran 46.39 in the men’s 400 at the Tyson Invite to break Steven Willey’s 2010 mark of 46.75. He is the No. 2 seed at the conference meet. A conference title in the event would be the second in program history, and the first since Anthuan Maybank won the championship in 47.55 seconds in 1990.
“Winning would mean so much I’ll probably cry if I win,” Harris said. “I know I can go out there and compete for first place, so I’ll go out and compete to the best of my ability.”
Junior Jahisha Thomas has set school records in both the long jump and triple jump. The triple jump record had stood since 2008. Renee White set the mark that season and won the only women’s Big Ten triple jump title in program history. No Hawkeye woman has ever won the Big Ten long jump. This weekend Thomas has a chance to do both.
“I’m optimistic and my training has been going well,” Thomas said. “I have personal goals that I want to achieve. Winning is the number one goal. My goal is to always go out there and win so that’s what I’ll aim to do. Hopefully it’s a mark close to what I’ve done, if not better.”
Senior Avery Meyers is competing at the indoor championships for the final time. He and teammate Reno Tuufuli are seeded fourth and fifth, respectively, in the shot put, but the medal stand is within reach for both. Only two and one-half feet separate No. 1 from No. 5.
“It’s really tight at the top and in the throws it takes just one big throw,” Meyers said, “so I’m going in there relaxed and we’ll see how it turns out. I just want to place as high as I can to help the team.”
Woody forecasts a tight race in the team score and is counting on every point throughout the lineup.
“It’s going to be a complete team effort,” Woody said. “Obviously we want to win Big Ten individual titles, but at the end of the day we’re all battling to win that team trophy. Everybody is in, we’ve been talking about it since the beginning of the fall and now it’s go time.”