By JACK ROSSI
EUGENE, Ore. – The University of Iowa men’s track and field team capped its season with a 17th-place finish at the NCAA Championships on Friday at Hayward Field.
Iowa tallied 15 points to place 17th overall. The Hawkeyes received scoring contributions from senior Aaron Mallett, sophomore Reno Tuufuli, and the 4×400-meter relay team of sophomore DeJuan Frye, sophomore Mar’yea Harris, freshman Collin Hofacker, and freshman Emmanuel Ogwo, who were all named first-team All-Americans.
The 4×400 team ran a school-record 3:01.91 to finish third overall, the Hawkeyes’ highest finish in the event. They did so with all underclassmen and Ogwo on the anchor, who has not anchored this season.
“Coach (Joey) Woody told me yesterday,” Ogwo said. “A lightbulb clicked in his head and he said. ‘How do you feel about running on the anchor?’ We knew if Mar’yea got in the second leg and ran his 43.9 split we would be top three in the race.”
Iowa was in position to strike until Ogwo got stuck in the back of the pack on the final lap. His late kick boosted him to the front where grabbed third.
“My plan was to kick the last 150 meters, but I was caged in,” Ogwo said. “Grant Holloway from Florida was on my outside and Fred Kerley from Texas A&M was in front of me, so I made sure I didn’t panic; I got to the straight-away and knew I could get out to lane three or four. I put my head down and gave it all I had.”
This is the second straight meet that the Hawkeyes have broken the school record in the 4×400 relay. At the NCAA qualifier in Austin, Texas, Iowa ran the program’s first sub 3:03.00 to win its heat and run the second-fastest time in the West region.
Mallett came into the finals as one of the favorites in the 110-meter hurdles and finished fourth with a time of 13.65 seconds.
“I was aiming higher,” Mallett said. “I went out and put my best foot forward and coach Woody did everything he could to get me prepared.
“It was one of my best starts ever. I got a little excited over the second hurdle and the others surged ahead of me. I executed my race, but that little mistake cost me a higher finish. I am disappointed, but I can’t be very disappointed.”
Mallett finished his career as one of the greatest Hawkeyes ever as he claimed his fifth All-American honor, joining all-time greats like Erik Sowinski, Justin Austin, and Bashir Yamini as athletes who had earned five All-American honors.
Tuufuli won the discus in the NCAA West Preliminary, but was stacked against some of the best during a rainy evening in Eugene. He finished fifth with a final mark of 59.81 meters (196 feet, 2 inches). He was much happier this season after fouling out during his freshman year, but the nerves still played a part.
“I was nervous in the warm-ups,” Tuufuli said. “After I took my first throw, I relaxed more because I knew that if I was tense that I wouldn’t be able to do what I wanted to do.”
The Hawkeyes finished highest of any of the other Big Ten teams ahead of Penn State by one point. Florida won the team title with 61.5 points.
The women conclude the season tomorrow with Brittany Brown and Laulauga Tausaga set to compete in the 200 meters and discus. The discus is scheduled to start at 5:05 p.m. (CT).
Aaron Mallett, 110 meter hurdles
Reno Tuufuli, Discus
Emmanuel Ogwo, 4×400
Collin Hofacker, 4×400
Mar’yea Harris, 4×400
DeJuan Frye, 4×400
Antwon James, Triple Jump
Avery Meyers, Discus