By HANNAH OSSMAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It is the time of year again when the Hawkeyes prepare to toe the line for the indoor track and field season as they host four teams at the Jimmy Grant Invitational on Saturday at the UI Recreation Building.
This is the first competitive meet in December that the Hawkeyes have had since combining the men’s and women’s teams in 2009. Iowa will compete against in-state schools Drake, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa along with visiting Illinois State.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to evaluate our athletes,” Iowa head coach Joey Woody said. “We’re used to having an intrasquad meet this weekend where it’s head-to-head with our own team. This time, they have to step up and know that they are competing against other teams. It brings a little bit more to the meet and to the competitiveness of the athletes going against other teams.
“We know how they are under training situations, but we don’t know how they are going to handle being under the lights, having an announcer, and an actual starting gun. It brings a lot more to the competitiveness of the meet and seeing where the athletes are under those circumstances.”
The athletes are ready to get the season started as well. Senior sprinter Mar’yea Harris is excited to see his younger teammates in their first competition action.
“For the young guys, it gives them a chance to see what the competition is going to be like all over the place,” Harris said. “It gives them a chance to see what a real college track meet is like, not just your team.”
The meet is the coaches’ first chance to see Iowa’s newcomers in action. It is also a chance to see how far the returners have come since last season.
“It gives us a good idea of where our athletes are in their training,” Woody said. “From the coach’s perspective, we can see if we need to adjust as we get ready for January. We feel confident with where we are right now.
“It also sometimes gives the athletes a wakeup call and makes sure they get good work in over winter break, so they can continue to improve and not go backwards. It’s motivating from that perspective, but it also can build confidence for a lot of athletes that say, ‘Everything is working, things are turning in the right direction, and I’ve just got to stay on that same path.'”
The Hawkeyes return 2018 indoor first-team All-American Briana Guillory and second-team All-Americans Chris Douglas, Collin Hofacker, Dejuan Frye, and Mar’yea Harris. Also returning this season are 2018 Outdoor All-Americans Laulauga Tausaga and Reno Tuufuli.
“We have a group that is capable of winning Big Ten titles this season,” junior Collin Hofacker said. “As long as we all do our part, we’ll have a successful season. It’s a matter of putting our times down and doing what we’re supposed to do.”
Iowa’s throwers open the Jimmy Grant Invitational with the weight throw at 10 a.m. (CT) at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. Field events begin at 2:30 p.m. at the Rec Building. Running events follow at 4:30 p.m.