IOWA CITY, Iowa — Senior Reno Tuufuli and junior Laulauga Tausaga opened the 2018-19 track and field season with three titles for the Hawkeyes in their home opener in December. The pair set the expectation for Iowa’s throws group this season.
On the women’s side, the Hawkeyes return Tausaga, a three-time Big Ten Champion and three-time all-American. She holds the school record in the indoor shot put (16.51m, 54-2), indoor weight throw (20.19m, 66-3), outdoor shot put (17.34m, 56-10 3/4), and outdoor discus (60.69m, 198-11).
Tausaga opened her junior season with a school record in the hammer throw (20.19, 66-3) and a win in the shot put (16.46m, 54-0) at the Jimmy Grant Invitational in December.
“Laulauga breaking the record, throwing over 66 [feet] for the first time in a competition is really solid,” throws coach Eric Werskey said. “She was within five centimeters of her school record in shot put. Laulauga has been super motivated, wanting to make the NCAA Indoor meet in one, potentially two, events. She’s been saying that since June.”
In the shot put, the men are looking at Tuufuli to lead the Hawkeyes. Tuufuli opened his senior season with a win in December, throwing 18.04 meters (59-2 1/4).
“We started the year off on a solid note,” Werskey said. “With us still training and me not having them in super good shape, I was really pleased with the results that came from the first meet. Reno [Tuufuli] used a new technique to reach over 18 meters. I thought it was a very strong outing for him.
Amanda Howe threw weight in her first collegiate meet at the Jimmy Grant Invitational, leading the lowerclassmen with a 16.81-meter (55-2) throw to place ninth.
“Amanda is a very young freshman,” Werskey said. “She has come in and blown the doors off, honestly. She’s really engaged in the environment that she’s in and it’s yielded her a lifetime best already, throwing over 55 feet. With her, we started off really well.”
Dawson Ellingson and Jordan Hawkins also saw their first collegiate meet when they competed unattached last month. Ellingson competed in the weight throw and shot put, and Hawkins competed in the weight throw.
“The 35-pound weight sounds as awful as it actually is,” Werskey said of the weight throw. “It’s hard to move. They both warmed up really well, and we have a good foundation there. We will start to see some big improvements at the end of January. In the shot put, Dawson is moving very well, and he is going grow a lot from that first meet.”
CONTINUING TO GROW
In 2018, junior Nia Britt threw career bests in shotput (16.52m, 54-2 1/2), weight throw (17.21m, 56-5 3/4), and hammer throw (54.37m, 178-4). She ranks second in shotput (indoor and outdoor), eighth in the weight throw and seventh in hammer throw in the Iowa record books.
“Nia had a big performance at the end of last year, but she’s been able to carry that same mentality and aggression into this year,” Werskey said.
“We saw some great things in warmups from Nia [Britt] that were well beyond what she threw last year, so we’ve just got to fine tune some of those things. A year ago, she would have dreamt of having a 50-foot throw, and that was her safe throw in the first meet. From a year ago to now, we’ve made big strides in technical type gains, but I think that’s just the start. I don’t think we had huge marks, but it’s something that they can be excited about moving forward.”
The Hawkeyes also return sophomore Konstadina Spanoudakis. In her freshman season, Spanoudakis set collegiate bests in the shot put (13.58m, 44-6 3/4) and discus (52.51m, 172-3). She bettered her shot put record from last season in the Hawkeyes’ season opener in December, throwing 13.78 meters (45-02 1/2).
“For Konstadina, the discus is really her baby, but we’re finding other ways to utilize her talents,” Werskey said. “She started the year off with a two-foot personal record in the shot. I was really pleased with that.”
Werskey is confident that his group of athletes will be contributing factors when it comes down to scoring points during the championship seasons.
“With the depth of this team, I have big goals,” Werskey said. “The athletes understand that we’re trying to win championships and score a lot of points in different categories. We’ve grown the throws, exponentially. Marissa Mueller is going to be a factor in the javelin this year. We have some new faces in the hammer, but we’re also bringing back faces that have a year under their belts. The shot put and discus group is well established. There are some great things to be had throughout the course of the year.”