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 CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the second straight year the University of Iowa track and field team is sending a school-record 15 student-athletes to compete at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
The four-day event begins Wednesday at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.
Since winning the Big Ten Championship in 2011, it has become the norm for the Tigerhawk to be among the most recognizable brands at the NCAA final site, where the top 24 athletes in each individual event meet at the national semifinals.
What it means is the UI Iowa track and field program has a lot to be proud of, but as the word “semifinals” suggests, there is still more gain.
“The next step, and we’ve talked a lot about it this year, is not just making the national meet but make the finals and score points,” said UI director of track and field Joey Woody. “That’s why we’re going. We want to get first-team All-Americans, score points, and be a top 20 team on both the men’s and women’s side. It’s great to have a lot of athletes going.”
Each of Iowa’s three individual sprinters are still one race from reaching the finals and scoring team points. All three Hawkeye throwers and each of Iowa’s three jumpers are still one mark from reaching the All-America stand. The men’s 400- and 1,600-meter relays need one more clean exchange around the track, and William Dougherty — Iowa’s second-year NCAA decathlete — needs to execute a near perfect 10 to make the top eight.
The good news is it can be done. The Hawkeyes enter this year’s title chase with more ammunition than in the past, including top-seed Aaron Mallett in the 110-meter hurdles and top-seeded Reno Tuufuli in men’s discus.
“It’s probably more star power than we have ever had and that’s the expectation as we continue to build this program,” Woody said. “We want more and more of those types of athletes. Not just qualifying to the national championship, which is a great first step, but getting in there and scoring points.”
Tuufuli is a third-year sophomore and Mallett is senior All-American making his third trip to Eugene. The Hawkeyes are also represented by veteran All-American Brittany Brown, the No. 3 seed in the 200 meters, but a handful of Hawkeyes are making their maiden voyage to legendary TrackTown USA. It’s a sign that lends credence to the youth movement coming through the program.
Freshmen Collin Hofacker and Emmanuel Ogwo team with sophomores DeJuan Frye and Mar’yea Harris to form a 1,600-meter relay seeded No. 2, and freshman Laulauga Tausaga is taking a school record and Big Ten title to Eugene as the No. 3 seed in women’s discus.
“It’s rewarding to have a lot of freshmen and sophomores going,” Woody said. “Not just to get the experience, but to get in there and fight and compete and help the team score points. The No. 1 goal coming into the year was to compete for championship and be a top 10 team. We believe we have the firepower to do that.”
Dougherty will compete in the decathlon Wednesday and Thursday. The Hawkeye men compete on Wednesday and Friday. The Hawkeye women compete on Thursday and Saturday. ESPN3 will stream the championships and ESPN will provide television coverage on Friday and Saturday. The first two days of competition are televised on ESPNU and ESPN2.