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
DES MOINES, Iowa — For Reno Tuufuli, his Drake Relays Champion flags go together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, chips and salsa.
Tuufuli, a University of Iowa junior, won the men’s university-college discus competition at the 2017 Drake Relays with a throw of 194-feet, 8-inches. It was the furthest winning toss at Drake since Iowa’s Gabe Hull threw 197 feet in 2014. On April 27, Tuufuli came out on top in the men’s university-college shot put by throwing a season-best 60-feet, 8 ½-inches on his first of three attempts in the finals.
“This is the shot put flag,” a smiling Tuufuli told reporters in the mixed zone beneath Drake Stadium. “I got one in the discus last year. It completes the pair; it feels good that I have more than one.”
Getting into the shot put finals wasn’t a breeze for Tuufuli. He sandwiched a throw of 59-4 ¾ between two fouls and was sitting third behind North Dakota State junior Payton Otterdahl and Purdue freshman Jalil Brewer.
“I was struggling throughout the first three rounds,” Tuufuli said. “I had two fouls and came back with that (winning throw); I attacked it.”
Before the winning effort, Tuufuli said he was pulling out of the back of the ring which caused him to become unbalanced prior to throwing. Once he corrected that…
“I fixed that in warmups between my third and fourth throws,” Tuufuli said. “It felt good.”
Tuufuli is the third Hawkeye to win the shot put at the Drake Relays. The others are Chris Gambol in 1987 (59-3) and Ken Kemeny in 2004 (59-11 ¼). It also allowed the Hawkeye throwers to complete a coed sweep of the shot put: hours later, sophomore Laulauga Tausaga won the women’s event with a toss of 54-1 ¼ on her sixth and final attempt. (To read more about Tausaga, click HERE)
A native of Las Vegas, it wasn’t until he first competed at the Drake Relays in 2016 that Tuufuli understood the passion of the event known as America’s Athletic Classic. As a redshirt freshman at the Drake Relays, Tuufuli placed third in the discus and fifth in shot put. Temperatures on the final two days never reached 50 degrees.
“It was windy and cold, but the stands were packed and people were showing their love to everybody,” Tuufuli said. “I realized people really cared about this meet, it was a big deal, and I should take pride in being able to compete in it.”
He hasn’t just competed, he has exceled. Now he has two championship flags to show for it. That’s a good thing, because the stick on the 2017 discus flag snapped in Tuufuli’s back pack before he could put it on his desk back in Iowa City.
“I guess I stepped on it or something, but I glued it back together,” Tuufuli said. “I will be able to tell the difference between them.”
Tuufuli came up nine inches short of repeating as discus champion Saturday. He threw 190-6 and finished runner-up to South Dakota junior Ben Hammer.
The Drake Relays was Iowa’s final tuneup before heading into the postseason. The next stop is the Big Ten Championship from May 11-13 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Tuufuli earned first-team All-America honors last season in the discus, placing fifth at the NCAA Championships. A similar result this season in the shot put would complement that All-America award.
Like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, chips and salsa.