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 JACK ROSSI
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Iowa track and field team begins its NCAA run at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin, Texas. Among Iowa’s qualifiers is a swarm of faces, new and old.
Twenty-two Hawkeyes will compete for their shot at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon, where the top 12 finishers in each event will move forward to face the top 12 finishers from the East Region.
“Making it to Eugene is everything,” said freshman Emmanuel Ogwo. “This may be a developmental year for me, but I am confident I will make it.”
Of the 22 athletes, 17 are making a return trip to the West Regional looking to secure a spot in Tracktown USA. This will be senior Aaron Mallett’s fourth regional in four years, making him the most experienced athlete on a deep Hawkeye roster.
“It’s a cool feat, making it all four years,” Mallett said. “I always think that you want to have the longest season you can. The end goal is to be at the national meet in Eugene and this is the first step.”
Mallett enters the meet as the No. 1 seed in the 110-meter hurdles for the first time in his career. He broke his own school record in the event at the Big Ten Championships with a time of 13.24 to win his third straight Big Ten title. Now he turns his attention to regionals.
“You have to take it one meet at a time,” Mallett said. “Some people skip steps to get to the end goal and my motto this season has been taking it one meet at a time. I am at regionals, so I will focus on regionals.”
For four of Iowa’s qualifiers, they will experience one of the year’s biggest meet for the first time in their first season at Iowa, including two athletes who will run in the men’s fourth-ranked 1,600 meter relay — Ogwo and Collin Hofacker.
“This is like a state meet for me,” Ogwo said, who is a couple hours away from his hometown of Mesquite. “This is my first time at an outdoor meet in Texas. It will be a memorable day and it means a lot to be here.”
Ogwo and Hofacker might not have made it to the regional meet had it not been for senior leadership. Mallett, Brendan Thompson, and Jared Ganschow have all been positive influences on the underclassmen all year and have been pushing them to be the best.
“All the seniors set a certain tone at practice,” Ogwo said. “They lead by example.”
Ganschow is an alternate on the 1,600-meter relay, but has brought the best out of the freshmen this season.
“He has experience and has been through the workouts,” Ogwo said. “He has died more times than we have on the track. Having him, and all the seniors, on the track bring an atmosphere to the track.”
Ogwo (4×400, 400 meters) and Hofacker (4×400, 400 meters) join Laulauga Tausaga (discus) and Nathan Mylenek (3,000 meter steeplechase) as the four freshmen making their NCAA debuts.
The NCAA West Regional Preliminary Rounds begin today with the women’s hammer throw at 11 a.m. (CT). The meet will be live streamed on texassports.com/watch.