By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There is no truth to the rumor that senior O’Shea Wilson was a member of the University of Iowa men’s track and field team when the Hawkeyes last won a Big Ten championship in 2011.
But sometimes it seems that way.
Wilson, the team’s elder statesman — known as grandpa or old man to many of his teammates — has been with the Hawkeyes since 2014. In his first season, he was a first-team All-American, running the second leg on Iowa’s 4×100-meter relay that placed sixth at the NCAA Championships. That Hawkeye quartet also won a Big Title in 39.35 seconds.
Wilson is primed to finish his collegiate career the way it started — on a high note — after sitting most of 2015 and 2016 because of injury.
“My first expectation for the team (at the Big Ten Championships) is to win it all,” Wilson said. “The closest we have been since I have been here is third place (in 2015) and that’s not good enough for me or the team. The main goal is winning the whole thing and bringing it back to Iowa.”
The Hawkeyes will compete at the Big Ten Championships from May 11-13 at the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex in Bloomington, Indiana.
Wilson is entered in the 4×100 relay (seeded third in the Big Ten), 100 dash (seeded seventh), and the long jump (seeded third). He is one of many Hawkeyes being counted on to provide leadership and score points this weekend.
“Big Tens is one of the biggest meets of the year, but still have fun, don’t change anything that you have been doing all year,” Wilson said. “Don’t stress on anything; keep doing the same things that got you here.”
Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody is excited, saying the Hawkeye men and women are peaking at the right time. He points to the program’s success at the Drake Relays at the end of April as evidence, where the Iowa men repeated as Hy-Vee Cup champions.
“This is the best we have looked this entire season,” Woody said. “Everybody is feeling healthy and both the men and women have had great workouts over the last couple weeks.”
At the outdoor Big Ten Championships a year ago at Penn State, the Hawkeyes finished fifth in the men’s standings and seventh in women’s. Woody expects both teams to be among three or four teams competing for the title this weekend.
“This team has as much talent as we have ever had, but the biggest thing is we have more depth than we have ever had,” Woody said. “We have a lot of athletes competing to make finals; we have always had great, elite athletes competing to win championships, but now we have more depth and that’s where you score more team points. We’re probably the best we have ever been, both men and women.”
Top returners for the Hawkeyes from the 2017 outdoor championships are champions Brittany Brown, a senior, in the 200 dash and sophomore Laulauga Tausaga in the discus. Brown was runner-up in the 100 and senior Jahisha Thomas was runner-up in the long jump.
On the men’s side, junior Mar’yea Harris was runner-up in the 400, junior Reno Tuufuli was runner-up in the discus, and the 4×100 relay — that included Wilson — was runner up.
Iowa enters this championships with the following league-leading performances: Brown (200 dash), junior Andrea Shine (10,000 run), Thomas (long jump and triple jump), Tausaga (discus), Harris (400 dash), sophomore Nathan Mylenek (3,000-meter steeplechase), and the men’s 4×400 relay (sophomore Collin Hofacker, sophomore Antonio Woodard, junior DeJuan Frye, Harris).
“We have to stay loose and go in with a positive mindset and do what we have been doing all season,” Woody said. “We just have to worry about what we’re capable of doing and if we do that, we are going to see a lot of athletes in the finals. We have to be confident and go out, compete, have fun, and enjoy the experience.”