By JACK ROSSI
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Freshman Laulauga Tausaga became Iowa’s first women’s discus throw champion in program history as the Hawkeyes qualified eight more athletes for tomorrow’s final on Saturday at the Big Ten Championships.
Tausaga threw 55 meters to win the discus throw by over a meter to set a new facility record and become the second straight freshman to win a Big Ten title, joining Briana Guillory who won the 200 meters last year.
“I didn’t know I was the first one in Iowa history,” Tausaga said. “I am very shocked. I didn’t expect to be first. I wanted to PR, but I am so grateful that everything turned out in my favor.”
“It was a busy time of day because I was getting ready for the 400m, 100m, and the high-hurdles but I was paying attention to my phone and the texts that were coming in,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “I am extremely happy for her. That is a big time performance for a freshman in any event.”
Tausaga entered the weekend as the only freshman ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten.
Junior Jahisha Thomas improved from her seventh place finish a year ago to finish runner-up in the women’s long jump with a mark of 6.32 meters.
“She is a fighter,” Woody said. “She is an extremely talented athlete for our team. She has done everything from the long jump to the triple jump to running on our 4×1. She is somebody that we rely a lot on.”
The multi-events concluded with the final events in the decathlon and the heptathlon. Sophomore Tria Seawater-Simmons finished sixth in the heptathlon with 5,205 points while freshman Jenny Kimbro finished seventh with 4,973 points in their first Big Ten heptathlon and first season as multi-event athletes. Seawater-Simmons moved into third place all-time in Iowa heptathlon history.
The duo scored 5 points for the Hawkeyes.
“It’s pretty amazing that Tria learned all these events in a matter of weeks,” Woody said. “It speaks volumes to what type of athlete she is. I’ve never witnessed somebody that’s been able to learn all those events and then be able to compete at a high level in them. I don’t think she even knew how many laps were in the 200m until a couple weeks ago.”
Junior Will Dougherty finished eighth in the decathlon with 6,602 points.
The men’s shot put saw Iowa score four points with sophomore Reno Tuufuli and senior Avery Meyers placing sixth and eighth, respectively. Meyers, a fifth-year senior, had never scored in a Big Ten championship before and slid into the top eight on his final throw in a Big Ten Championship.
“I congratulated Avery because that was a big time performance,” Woody said. “He had one final shot to put it out there and he did it and was able to put up a point. He has been a great leader for our throws program and team as a whole.”
A team-high four Hawkeyes qualified in the men’s 400 meters. Sophomore Mar’yea Harris led the field with a personal best time of 45.70 followed by DeJuan Frye, Emmanuel Ogwo, and Collin Hofacker.
“Having four people in the 400m is a big feat for our program,” Woody said.
After two days of competition, the Iowa women are sixth with 25 points and the men sit 10th with six points.
“We have to start our fast,” Woody said. “There are going to be a lot of head-to-head battles to be one of those top three teams by the end of the meet. Any place that we go ahead somebody is a two-point swing. So we need to make sure we are not only scoring points but taking them away from other teams.”
The Hawkeyes look to tomorrow where a total of 32 men and women will compete for points in their respective finals.
The final day of the Big Ten Championships begin at 10:30 a.m. (CT) tomorrow with the trials and finals of the men’s triple jump. The meet will be streamed on BTN2Go in two sections from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will resume at 12:45 p.m.