By JACK ROSSI
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The University of Iowa track and field team captured two titles on the final day of the 2017 Big Ten Championships on their way to two top seven finishes on Sunday afternoon.
Senior Aaron Mallett and junior Brittany Brown highlighted the day with Big Ten titles. Mallett won the 110-meter title while Brittany Brown won her first outdoor championship in her collegiate career in the 200 meters.
“We had some elite level performances today,” UI director of track and field Joey Woody said. “Look at what Aaron (Mallett) and Brittany (Brown) did and even Lagi yesterday. It is good to have Brittany and Lagi coming back next year.
Big Ten champions are always important to build around. The good thing is we bring a lot of people back next year and we have a lot of young athletes that are scoring big points.”
The men finished fifth overall with 70 points and the women tallied 54 points to finish seventh.
Mallett’s victory marks his third straight 110-meter hurdle championship, making him the sixth Hawkeye in program history to accomplish the feat, joining Charles Brookins, Frank Cuhel, Pat McGhee, Edward Gordon, and Matt Byers who all have three Big Ten titles under their belt.
“It really is a blessing. I have been telling myself to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Mallett said. “Sometimes I let my head get the best of me. I knew the wind was going to be a factor and if I kept my feet fast and keep moving then I would come away surprised. I couldn’t be happier for the win in front of my teammates and for my teammates.”
Mallett’s 13.24 in the event was not wind legal as it exceeded the 2.0 m/s threshold, however it is personal best for the St. Louis, Missouri, native.
“I definitely lit the track on fire,” Mallett said. “I told my teammates I’d run fast so that they run fast. Once you get the ball rolling with a good performance, it gets the team hyped. When I saw the time, I almost dropped to the ground. I didn’t know it was that fast of a race.”
Brown continued her 2017 redemption tour with her first career outdoor Big Ten title. She ran a wind-aided 22.30 seconds in the 200 meters to sweep the event both indoors and outdoors.
“It feels good to have a big impact for the team,” Brown said. “I was nervous going into the 200 because my hamstring wasn’t feeling good, but I was not expecting to run as fast as I did and even though it was wind aided, I will still count it.”
This is the second straight year that Iowa won the 200 meters and second in program history. Briana Guillory won the event last season.
Senior Alexis Hernandez had the best conference championships of her career. Hernandez finished fourth overall in the 400 meters with a time of 53.57 seconds.
In the field events, sophomore Reno Tuufuli finished runner-up for the second straight year. Tuufuli recorded a personal best on his final throw of finals to throw over 200 feet for the first time in his career (61.19m/200 feet, 9 inches) as he finished behind the 2016 defending national champion for the second time.
“It feels good,” Tuufuli said. “I can’t complain, I got a personal best, I finally broke the 200 foot barrier, and I got second to a really good thrower. I am on my way up. It took me over a year to PR and I have big expectations moving forward.”
Junior Jahisha Thomas finished fifth overall in the triple jump. Thomas’ 12.91m jump is a new personal best and is second all-time in Iowa history.
This year’s surprise came from sophomore Andy Jatis in the pole vault. Jatis cleared 5.07m to set a new personal best and score two points for the Hawkeyes.
“To see what he was capable of in the pole vault was exciting,” Woody said. “The next step is getting more people like that. He came out here and made two bars, and getting a big PR. He is going after 17 foot bars now and that is what it’s going to take.”
The Penn State men won with 117 points and Purdue won the women’s team title with 133 points.
“We need to work out butts off to take that next step and have people to believe in the dream and the dream and expectation is to win,” Woody said.
The team will wait to see how many Hawkeyes qualify for the NCAA West Regional in Austin, Texas, May 25-27. The top 48 individuals and top 24 relays qualify.