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By DARREN MILLER
DES MOINES, Iowa — For eight years Talia Buss competed at the Drake Relays, dating back to her days as a prep at Waukee (Iowa) High School.
There have been ups and downs for Buss on the blue Jim Duncan Track and one thing continually eluded her: a Drake Relays Champion flag.
The drought ended Saturday afternoon for Buss, now a University of Iowa junior competing in her final season. She ran the second 200-meter leg of the women’s sprint medley relay, joining teammates Antonise Christian, Briana Guillory, and Taylor Arco in taking a victory lap after clocking 3:54.18. Illinois was runner-up in 3:55.79.
“I’m an Iowa kid and this is my first-ever white (Drake Relays Champion) flag, so it is special to get this at my last Drake Relays ever,” Buss said.
The sprint medley title was the biggest reason the Hawkeye women captured the Hy-Vee Cup with 26 points in the 4×800, distance medley, sprint medley, 4×100, and 4×400 relays. Illinois was runner-up with 20 points.
Christian, a sophomore from Gary, Indiana, got the Hawkeyes off to a good start out of the blocks in the sprint medley.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the weather, it was cold of course, but I got out there and ran for the team,” Christian said. “And coach Raff.”
Iowa volunteer coach John Raffensperger passed away Monday and he was on the minds (and singlets) of the Hawkeyes. The uniforms of the Iowa student-athletes included a black patch with gold letters spelling RAFF.
“Our motivations are high because coach Raff passed on Monday,” Buss said. “Everyone wants to run fast for him and he definitely has the best seat in the house today.”
After Christian and Buss blazed through their 200-meter legs, Guillory took over for the next 400-meters. Guillory has earned multiple All-America honors and has proven to be one of the finest sprinters in the nation. She was excited to add a relays title to her resume.
“It is always good having someone else holding you accountable for what you do,” Guillory said. “I know I have to go out there and do my best for them. I have had a lot of individual success and some people don’t get that chance. Today was about doing it for my teammates.”
Arco, a junior from Mission Viejo, California, grabbed the baton five meters behind Kentucky anchor Faith Ross. Arco split 2:12.19 on the 800, supplying a burst down the homestretch that led the Hawkeyes to victory.
“The plan was to sit and kick,” Arco said. “Today isn’t one of those days when you go out and PR. It’s more strategic because of the weather. The plan was to wait and when I felt good, make my move and make sure it was a good move.”
The relay win was one of three Saturday championships for the Hawkeyes. Senior Reno Tuufuli won the men’s discus with an opening throw of 193-feet, 2-inches and freshman James Carter captured the long jump title with a leap of 24-feet, 1-inch.
“I felt a lot of energy; there were a lot of Hawkeye fans out there cheering me on, so I attacked my jumps and it went well,” Carter said. “It’s an amazing meet with a lot of tradition, especially for our school with this being our state. I’m glad to be here and glad to perform well.”
It was an interesting competition for Carter, who is from Oak Creek, Wisconsin. He fouled on his first two attempts before sailing more than 24 feet. He passed on all three finals attempts.
On Friday, Carter finished third in the triple jump with a leap of 49-7 ¼.
“I have two weeks to get ready for Big Tens, I’m ready to go hard on that,” Carter said. “I’ll work hard the next two weeks of practice and show up (May 10-12) for a home meet.”
Iowa hosts the Big Ten Championships at the Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track.