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By JACK ROSSI
AUSTIN, Texas – The Hawkeyes reserved nine more spots in Eugene during the final day of the NCAA West Preliminary on Saturday.
Iowa will be sending nine individuals and two relays, for a total of 14 athletes, to Eugene, Oregon, for the NCAA Championships June 7-10.
The Iowa men’s 4×400 meter relay team of sophomore DeJuan Frye, freshman Emmanuel Ogwo, freshman Collin Hofacker, and sophomore Mar’yea Harris highlighted the final day, setting the school record in the event and qualifying for NCAAs with a time of 3:02.57.
“Its overwhelming right now,” Ogwo said. “It will probably hit me on the plane back to Iowa. It’s just a blessing. I am happy to be here and be with these guys. I’m ready for Oregon, let’s go.”
However, the Hawkeyes throwers grabbed the spotlight early for the second straight day with senior Avery Meyers and sophomore Reno Tuufuli clinching their spots in the next round in the discus throw.
Tuufuli flipped the script, defeating Nebraska’s Nicholas Percy for first place with a personal best throw of 62.06 meters. Percy bested Tuufuli for gold at the Big Ten Championships on May 13.
Despite a mishap in warm-ups, the day could not have been any better for Tuufuli.
“I had a little problem in warm-ups,” Tuufuli said. “On my first throw I twisted my ankle and fell on my knee. That really brought my adrenaline down, but I stayed calm and kept doing what got me here.”
For Meyers, this was a long time coming for the fifth-year senior.
“This feels awesome,” Meyers said. “This is an accumulation of a lot of hard work. After five long years, I finally make it out there as a competitor. I am really excited and looking forward to it.”
Meyers earned his first trip to Eugene with an all-time mark of his own (56.61 meters). He finished eighth overall.
The three Iowa throwers matches the school record for most throwers sent to Eugene (2002, 2008).
Another fifth-year senior, Antwon James, qualified for NCAAs on his third trip to the preliminaries. James is a transfer from Loyola and, during his final year of eligibility, is looking to become an All-American.
“I finally got that chance to go to Eugene,” James said. “It’s been an amazing journey going from Division III to competing for a first-team (Division I) All-American spot. It’s so surreal.”
Senior Aaron Mallett is making his third trip out west as his illustrious career is starting to come to a close. Mallett won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.36 seconds but Mallett says the best is yet to come.
“It’s amazing to see all the hard work pay off, especially being in a loaded field like this,” Mallett said. “I believe I can get to the 13.2s and 13.1s. I have had a lot of races that were windy and that pushes me into the hurdles, so if I get legal wind and it’s right, I can run fast.”
Junior Brittany Brown was another Hawkeye who qualified for the NCAA Championships. Brown will head to Eugene after finishing with the third fastest time in the 200 meters (22.33). Brown’s last trip to NCAAs was in 2014 with the women’s 4×100.
“I feel good,” Brown said. “The sun kind of got to me, but I felt like I had a better start than yesterday, so it’s about improving on the little things.”
The men’s 4×100 team of sophomore Christian Brissett, junior O’Shea Wilson, senior Brendan Thompson, and Mallett will represent Iowa in the event for the fifth-straight year as they finished with the second best time in school history (39.22) and sixth best time overall.
The NCAA Championships will take place in Eugene, Oregon, June 7-10.
Christian Brissett – 4×100
Brittany Brown – 200 meters
DeJuan Frye – 4×400
Mar’yea Harris – 400m, 4×400
Collin Hofacker – 4×400
Antwon James — Triple Jump
Aaron Mallett – 110-meter hurdles, 4×100
Avery Meyers – Discus
Emmanuel Ogwo – 4×400
Laulauga Tausaga – Discus
Jahisha Thomas – Long Jump
Brendan Thompson – 4×100
Reno Tuufuli – Discus
O’Shea Wilson – Long Jump, 4×100