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 — It’s not April and it’s not on the blue oval, but the Larry Wieczorek Invitational is certainly shaping up to feel like the indoor version of the Drake Relays.
The University of Iowa will host the second annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational on Jan. 19-20 in the UI Recreation Building where 32 professional track and field athletes, including Olympic medalists and world champions, will compete. They join Iowa, Arizona, Minnesota, Florida State, LSU, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa State on the Hawkeyes’ state-of-the-art track.
“The atmosphere is going to be electric,” said Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody. “For a collegiate track and field meet this is unprecedented. I’ve never seen that many professional athletes at one event during the indoor season.”
For the student-athletes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch their idols compete in front of their eyes, including 2012 Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles Aries Merritt. Merritt will compete in the 60-meter hurdles on Saturday.
“The fact that the world record holder in the 110-meter hurdles will be here is pretty cool,” junior Chris Douglas said. “I’ve watched him on video countless times to watch his form and learn from him. To actually be able to see him run in person is going to be cool.”
In addition to Merritt, other athletes include CJ Ujah (Diamond League Champion), Fred Kerley (NCAA 400 meter record holder and USA Champion), Jasmin Stowers (2015 NCAA and USA Champion), Jarrion Lawson (World Championship medalist), Courtney Okolo (Olympic gold medalist and seven-time NCAA Champion), and four former Hawkeyes — Aaron Mallett, Kineke Alexander, Troy Doris, and Erik Sowinski.
What started with a few professional commitments quickly branched out to the entire country and around the world.
“It just started happening,” Woody said. “We were excited to open it up to professional athletes from other schools and then I reached out to a friend that owns a training facility in Arizona where a lot of athletes train and the next thing you know we had 15-20 athletes. Then I had some agents calling me and requesting to get their athletes in the meet. It blew up.”
From Olympic gold medalists to World Champions to NCAA Champions, the Larry Wieczorek Invitational is stacked with star power. Woody, an Iowa City native, has always wanted to bring world class athletes to his hometown and the Larry Wiezcorek Invitational is a huge step toward accomplishing that goal.
“We are getting there,” said Woody. “My vision when we got a world-class facility was to have world-class athletes. Within a year of opening this facility to have a meet like this is exceptional.”
The Larry Wieczorek Invitational begins Friday at 11 a.m. (CT) with the heptathlon 60 meter dash and resumes Saturday with the heptathlon 60 meter hurdles at 1 p.m. A live stream of the meet is available on BTN2Go and FloTrack. Admission to the event is free.