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
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Fifth-year senior Antwon James embodies the “Climb the Mountain” mantra the University of Iowa track and field team has emphasized all season.
James started his career in Division III and Saturday at the NCAA West Preliminary, he became an NCAA Division I qualifier in the triple jump for the first time in his career.
James jumped 15.90 meters (52-feet, 2-inches) in the single round, three-attempt competition to secure his spot in Eugene, Oregon, on June 9.
“I finally got that chance to go to Eugene,” James said. “It has been an amazing journey going from Division III to competing for a first-team (Division I) All-America spot. It’s so surreal.”
James already owns one of the best triple jump marks in school history, setting the fourth-best mark in program history at the 2017 Big Ten Championships with at 15.96 meters (52-4 ½).
Iowa assistant coach Jason Wakenight saw James compete when he was at Concordia University of Chicago and Wakenight was at Loyola University Chicago. He then brought James to Loyola.
“I did some great things there, but I ultimately wanted to finish my career in the Big Ten,” James said.
When Wakenight moved to Iowa in 2015, he did not forget James and brought him to Iowa City for his final year of eligibility.
After being a track and field nomad, James was used to adjusting to new teammates and Iowa made it easy welcoming him to the Hawkeye family.
“I have amazing teammates and they welcomed me with open arms,” James said. “At first it was a hard transition being an older guy and not knowing many people, but they invited me onto their team.”
James finished the regular season with the 14th-best mark in the region and heading into the NCAA West Preliminary, James knew that the third time had to be the charm.
“The first time I went, I didn’t jump well,” James said. “The second time I had a heartbreak and ended up injuring myself and finished 13th.”
With a final shot to make it to NCAAs and as a member of a Hawkeye program on the rise, James had all the tools to succeed. That helped alleviate the pressure of this being his last chance.
“The focus this year was to leave it all on the track,” James said. “I came in with the mindset that if I am going to do this then I am going to give my all. Why would I if this is my last chance, I’ll be able to do it?”
After waiting all week to compete, James had his mind set on execution.
“Coach (Clive) Roberts always tells me to go out and not think about distance or anything else in life; execute, and maximize anything you do,” James said.
James qualified for the next round, finishing 10th. While a reserved seat in Eugene is good enough for many people, James is not satisfied.
“I want to say I feel a sense of accomplishment, but my ultimate goal is to finish top eight (in the NCAA Championships),” James said. “I am taking in this feeling of getting past the hump, but that was only one hump. Now I have to climb the mountain.”