By JACK ROSSI
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.
EUGENE, Ore. — As the University of Iowa men’s track and field team left Hayward Field with its first top 20 finish in a half a century, the Hawkeyes knew the program has entered uncharted territory, and for good reason.
The Iowa men compiled 15 points for their highest national finish since placing seventh in 1967. This has been a goal for Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody since he took over three years ago.
“Being a top 20 team is what we’ve been talking about all year,” Woody said. “This is a step toward taking us where we want to be down the road.”
Hawkeye student-athletes made contributions in a variety of areas at the NCAA Championships, including the 4×400-meter relay, discus, and the 110-meter hurdles. Senior Aaron Mallett, who Woody credits as the one who helped start the Iowa track and field resurgence, was fourth in the 110 hurdles.
“Before Aaron got here, we were kind of struggling and not moving the direction we wanted to go,” Woody said. “Aaron helped us take this program to a new level by being an All-American multiple times.”
Mallett tallied six All-American honors in his career and those accolades helped open the door for Iowa to recruit better athletes. In the past two years, the Iowa coaching staff has worked tirelessly to bring the best talent to Iowa City and Friday’s result was evidence of a blossoming program.
“This is the beginning,” Woody said. “This isn’t where we expect to be down the road, this is where we are going to start from.”
The 4×400 meter relay is built with those talented recruits. The team consists of two freshmen (Collin Hofacker and Emmanuel Ogwo) and two sophomores (DeJuan Frye and Mar’yea Harris) and finished third in the country, running a school-record 3:01.91. This is the second straight meet that they have set the school record.
“To run 3:01 and get third is impressive,” Woody said. “This shows where we’ve come in three years and two recruiting classes. This should show people that the University of Iowa is a great track and field program.”
Iowa finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships in May, but led all Big Ten Conference schools at the NCAA meet with 15 points. More importantly, the Hawkeyes are gaining national respect along the way.
“There is a lot of respect now,” Woody said. “This has allowed us to attract a lot of talent and I have had a lot of coaches come up to us this weekend and say that we have done a great job.”
The offseason starts Saturday according to Woody and the Hawkeyes are not looking to slow down any time soon.
“We are only in our third season, so the best is yet to come,” Woody said. “I don’t say that it’s a hope or a dream, but an expectation that we will be a top team in the country.”