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 DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Mar’yea Harris crossed the finish line to wrap up a thrilling 4×400-meter relay Saturday when another statement resonated through the University of Iowa Recreation Building.
“Mar’yea Harris brought his “A” game today,” announcer Mike Jay said.
Not only did the University of Iowa junior sprinter from Auburn, Washington (by way of Long Beach, California) anchor the Hawkeyes to a third-to-first victory in the men’s 4×400 relay at the second annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational, but he also established the 12th-fastest 400-meter time in the world earlier in the afternoon.
“Mar’yea is a fantastic athlete, but even more impressive is the way he competes,” said Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody. “That is the type of athlete you want on your team. He is an exceptional talent and a competitor. It doesn’t matter who is in front of him, he is going to go after him.”
Even if one of the guys is the collegiate record-holder in the 400 and another set the United States high school 400 record six years ago.
Fred Kerley won Saturday’s 400-meter dash premier in 46.25, the fastest time to date in the United States and second-fastest in the world. Runner-up was Aldrich Bailey in 46.46, the seventh-fastest time in the world. Harris was a close third in 46.50, the 12th-fastest time in the world.
“I opened (the indoor season) with a 46.5, so yes, I am very happy,” Harris said. “But I’m super happy because I know I could have won that race. Had I not got boxed in, I was coming — I even think I closed the gap a significant amount at the end and I could have passed Aldrich Bailey had I not got boxed in.”
It was shaping up to be a Rocky-Apollo Creed situation in the 400 as the collegiate underdog Harris traded blows with professionals Kerley, a World Championships silver medalist in the 4×400 and Bailey, a two-time World U20 champion in the 4×400 and 4×100. For Harris, it was just the beginning. Any question whether he was a one-hit wonder on the track was answered in the final event of the two-day Larry Wieczorek Invitational. Harris took the baton in the 4×400 in third place and then set out to chase down Jahnoy Thompson of LSU and Hawkeye great Erik Sowinski.
But first, here’s how the stage was set:
As is customary at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational, prior to the gun sounding, the premier 4×400 teams jog up the homestretch of the track beneath the radiance of a spotlight. The Hawkeyes entered to the song, Back in Black by AC/DC while Harris skipped in lane four, sent a two-index finger gesture toward the ceiling, and gave his heart two quick slaps with his right hand. He then shook hands with Iowa lead-off runner Collin Hofacker before exiting the track for a few minutes before bringing a capacity crowd to its feet.
Harris was in third most of the race, then bolted past the field with 10 meters remaining for the win and a sub-46-second anchor split.
Iowa’s quartet of Hofacker, DeJuan Frye, Bradford Garron, and Harris ran 3:07.54 — tops in the Big Ten and fifth in the NCAA.
“The atmosphere of this meet brought everybody alive,” Woody said. “This is pretty early for these type of performances. It is exciting to get those out of the way and in a couple weeks, we’re going to go after some big times. I’m excited about where we’re at right now as a program.”
The 4×400-meter relays left fans wondering what just hit them in only the third weekend of 2018.
“I couldn’t have of scripted it better,” Woody said. “The way it all happened, especially the women’s 4×4 and the men’s 4×4 to finish the way they did, you can’t script that.”
As for Harris, his “A” game has been elevated to that of an elite performer.
“This lets me know that I am capable of competing at the next level,” he said.