Climb the Nittany Mountain

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa track and field team’s climb to the top of the mountain continues this weekend at the 2017 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in State College, Pennsylvania.
The Hawkeyes departed for Penn State via charter plan Wednesday for a three-day championship that begins Friday at 11 a.m. (CT).
“Everyone is very excited,” said UI director of track and field Joey Woody. “We’ve had a great season up to this point, and our athletes are ready for the challenge to go to the Big Ten Championships and fight to win.”
The Hawkeye women are in the top half of the conference in paper points, and the men enter the championships pre-seeded second. Both teams are in the mix for a title, but both need maximum performances from up and down the roster.  
“There a lot of great teams in the Big Ten,” Woody said. “It’s more balanced than it’s ever been. Every point is going to be important.”
The Hawkeyes are gold medal favorites in four events. The men’s 1,600-meter relay and women’s 400-meter relay enter the field with the fastest times in the conference. Senior Aaron Mallett is the two-time defending champion and top seed in the 110-meter hurdles, and junior Brittany Brown is the school record holder and top seed in the 200 meters. Both Hawkeyes won conference titles at the indoor championships.
“They have to do their thing,” Woody said, “but we have to have a lot of athletes step up that are either right on the verge of making the final, or those athletes that are ranked fifth, sixth, or seventh; we have to make sure those athletes make the final as well.
“Everyone is going to be really important because at the end of the meet, it’s all about how many people you get into the final to score those points that you need.”
One of the athletes on the outside looking in is sophomore Chris Douglas. He is the No. 9 seed in the 400-meter hurdles, and the No. 12 seed in the 110-meter hurdles.
“I have big expectations for myself and I’m hoping to make the final in both events,” Douglas said. “Currently I’m not seeded to score, so I want to be able to show up and get points that we don’t already have on paper.”
Another Hawkeye with one foot in the points and another just outside is freshman Laulauga Tausaga. The school record holder in the discus enters the field with the third best mark in the conference, and the 12th best mark in the shot put.
“I’ve been doing well in discus, so I want to go out there and see if I can compete with the girls who’ve been there and are throwing at the next level,” Laulauga said. “For shot, I’m kind of nervous, it’s not my strong suit but I’m hoping to go out there and get my personal best.”
The conference championships are contested at the Nittany Lion Outdoor Track. Competition begins Friday at 11 a.m., Saturday at 8:30 a.m., and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The meet will air on a tape-delay Sunday at 6 p.m. on BTN.