By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s track and field team won the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Cup in 2017 and director of track and field Joey Woody isn’t content with stopping there.
Woody is not only positioning the Hawkeye men for a Hy-Vee Cup repeat from April 26-28 on Des Moines’s Jim Duncan Track, but he wants the women to join the celebration as well.
“One of our goals on both sides is to win the Hy-Vee Cup,” Woody said. “I feel good about what we’re doing. We have some great relays, so it is going to be a fun weekend.”
Started in 2013, the Hy-Vee Cup champion is the program that scores the most points in the 4×100, 4×400, 4×800, sprint medley, and distance medley relays. The Iowa men won the Hy-Vee Cup for the first time last year with a total of 39 points. The Hawkeyes won three relays: 4×800 (7:24.77), 4×400 (3:07.35), and sprint medley (3:20.40).
“It showed our overall team ability and being able to cover a lot of events; that was great to recognize our program last year,” Woody said. “It has been our goal the last few years to go in and win the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Cup. That was something we planned on doing; it was a battle, but our kids showed up.”
Woody was overwhelmed by the reaction that ensued from the Iowa City community and around the state. It also provided an assist in recruiting.
“One of my goals is to recruit the best kids in the state of Iowa and make sure they stay Hawkeyes,” Woody said. “We had a great recruiting class and I think a lot of it is (because of) what we’re doing at the Drake Relays.”
With a target on its back, Woody expects Iowa to receive stiff challenges from Big Ten Conference foes Illinois, Ohio State, and Purdue.
“We’re going to have to fight to win a lot of these events,” Woody said. “Some good Big Ten teams are going to be competing against us head-to-head, but that will give us a good idea where we stand going into the Big Ten Championships (on May 11-13).”
The Hawkeyes are standing tall based on scoring potential from outdoor season performance lists. On paper, Iowa is seeded first among Big Ten men’s teams and third among women. The Hawkeyes have Big Ten-leading performances in seven events: Brittany Brown (women’s 200-meter dash, 22.76), Mar’yea Harris (men’s 400, 45.71), Nathan Mylenek (men’s 3,000 steeplechase, 8:48.66), Laulauga Tausaga (women’s discus, 196-feet, 5-inches), Jahisha Thomas (women’s long jump, 21-1 ½), and the men’s 4×400 relay (3:04.38).
“I feel good about our chances at the NCAA level,” Woody said. “To get athletes like Brittany and Bri (Guillory) and Lagi (Tausaga) and Jahisha, that’s a great core of four athletes on the women’s team. Plus our relays and what we’re doing there.
“Then on the men’s side with the relays and Mar’yea. We have great things happening in the hurdles right now, Reno (Tuufuli) in the discus and shot. We have exciting things happening on both sides on the national level, too.”
Tuufuli is the defending Big Ten men’s discus champion with a winning mark of 194-feet, 8-inches (59.34 meters).
The Hawkeyes will not enter multi-event performers, meaning their events at the Drake Relays begin Thursday. Live results are available HERE.
“The Drake Relays is one of the premiere events on the globe,” Woody said. “We get a lot of great fan support and we want to prove that we’re one of the best teams in the country. To be able to go to Drake and get that recognition is a lot of fun for our student-athletes.”