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
EUGENE, Ore. — University of Iowa senior Aaron Mallett is one race, roughly 13 seconds from his dream of an NCAA Championship. The question is will his fastest be enough?
Mallett is back in the NCAA finals in the 110-meter hurdles for the second time in his career at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In 2015, he finished fifth overall, but in 2016, he failed to advance to the finals.
He ran 13.44 in the semifinal to finish fourth overall and extend his season to Friday where he will race for an NCAA Championship. It’s a dream of Mallett’s and a goal of his and head coach Joey Woody’s since Mallett bought into Woody’s plan in 2013.
“I want to take it all,” Mallett said. “You want to leave everything out here. This is my last collegiate meet, so I am going to go out there, give it my all, and keep doing what I’ve been doing. Coach Woody has been preparing me well for this.”
As Mallett set up his blocks, rain began to fall for the first time all week, and his nerves started to remind him of 2016. It was an uncharacteristic performance where Mallett failed to make finals and finished with a time of 13.80 for 14th place.
“I get nervous in the semifinals because anything can happen and nothing is guaranteed and, honestly, my jitters go away in finals,” Mallett said. “All of the times were close, but going into finals with one of the top times, I feel like I can put my best self out there.”
Mallett faced the stiffest competition all season with the country’s best racing next to him, including Florida freshman Grant Holloway, who edged Mallett despite a quick close by the St. Louis, Missouri, native.
“I know how much of a competitor he is,” Mallett said. “He competes like a fifth-year and like he has been here before. Grant and I are good friends, and I knew he was going to push me to stay composed and stay tight. I knew I could close and I just wanted to make top two and qualify.”
Now that a finals appearance is set in stone, Mallett is seeking to become Iowa’s first NCAA champion since 1998 when Bashir Yamini won the long jump and first NCAA champion on the track since 1957 when Deacon Jones won the two miles – a 60-year drought.
Mallett could do it with his family and Hawkeye family watching.
“My family came out, so I want to do them and the Hawkeye fans a solid and see what I can put together,” Mallett said.
The 110-meter hurdles final is Friday at 8:12 p.m. (CT). The NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will air live on ESPN, beginning at 7:30 p.m.