Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa senior Aaron Mallet has been there before. He placed sixth in the 60-meter hurdles in 2015 and moved on to the medal stand with a third place finish in 2016.
As for the other eight Hawkeyes slated to compete at the 2017 NCAA Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas?
Not so much.
Mallett is a two-time indoor All-American with national championship intentions. The others are indoor qualifiers toeing the water for the first time. But for UI director of track and field Joey Woody, the message is the same.
“This is not unlike any other championship meet,” Woody said. “We’re going in with the mindset to make the final and get that first-team All-America status and score points. This is still a team event. We’re not looking at this as an individual championship. It’s a team event and we want to throw up big points.”
The top 16 individuals and top 12 relays in the country qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Iowa qualified nine athletes in six individual events and one relay. There are two women in the field — Brittany Brown (200 meters) and Jahisha Thomas (long jump) — and seven men. Mallett is joined by O’Shea Wilson (long jump), Carter Lilly (800 meters), and Mar’yea Harris (400 meters), and the mile-relay team of Harris, Emmanuel Ogwo, Collin Hofacker, and DeJuan Frye.
“It has been a goal of ours to take a significant group to the national meet,” Woody said. “We have not had this big of a group since 2011 when the men’s team finished eighth at the national meet. We are going with high ambitions to be a top 10 team and I think we have the athletes to do it.”
Harris is the No. 4 seed in the 400 meters and runs the anchor on Iowa’s school record-setting 1,600-meter relay. He missed qualifying for nationals as a freshman in 2016. Making the field this year has him believing big things can happen.
“I’ve been thinking about (nationals) since the Big Tens were over. I’ve been ready to go since we got on the plane,” Harris said. “I’m going to go out and try to PR in the 400 prelims, make it to the finals, and pray to God something good happens.”
And for the mile relay? The one that has twice set a school record this season and could become the first Hawkeye relay to win a national title since the 4×400 in 1967?
“I think we can compete with anyone and that we have a good chance to go out there and win it,” he said. “If you put someone out there that is fast in our heat, we’re going to go out there and compete and push them for the win.”
Brown and Thomas have both reached the final site of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, but neither is drawing from that experience for their first indoor meet.
“I’ve never been to indoor so I can’t compare the two,” said Brown, who set a school record and won gold at the Big Ten Indoor Championships on Feb. 25. “The competition is high at both the indoor and outdoor, so I expect a good race. My mind is prelims right now. Run the prelim like a final and go from there.”
Thomas, the No. 11 seed, used a school mark of 6.39 meters to jump into the field of 16.
“Qualifying to this point is really satisfying,” she said. “It’s my first time qualifying for indoors and it’s tougher to get there. It’s hard outdoors, but with this one, I’m proud to get there. It’s not only about getting there, it’s about doing well and showing that I belong.”
The championships begin Friday with semifinal competition starting at 5:30 p.m. (CT). The finals round continue Saturday at 4 p.m. ESPN3 will stream the meet live on Friday starting at 5:25 p.m. and Saturday starting at 3:55 p.m. A re-air of the championship will take place on Sunday, March 12, starting at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.