24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2018-19 | Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | Hawk Talk Monthly — April | Soto Feature | Photo Gallery (Day 2) | Photo Gallery (Day 1) | Photo Gallery (Day 3) | Final Results (PDF)
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After 21 events over three days, the top three men’s track and field teams at the Big Ten Championships were separated by 20 points.
It’s the latest example of every point being at a premium in the postseason.
The Hawkeyes exceled at their strengths Friday-through-Sunday at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track, pouring on 41 points in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles, and adding 39 more points in distances ranging from 200 to 800 meters. But there were also unsung heroes who scratched and clawed their way to lower steps on the podium.
Two in particular are freshman James Carter, who totaled five points in the long jump Saturday and a point in the triple jump Sunday, and sophomore long-jumper Cooper Koenig, who sailed 22-feet-11 ¾-inches on his first attempt in Saturday’s competition. Koenig’s effort held up for eighth place and another crucial point for the Hawkeyes.
“We needed every opportunity possible just to give us a chance,” said Joey Woody, Iowa’s director of track and field. “James stepped up, Cooper Koenig had never scored a point in his life and he comes in here and scores. I’m very proud of every one of those guys.”
Iowa won its second Big Ten outdoor championship in eight years by racking up 116 points, 13 more than runner-up Indiana. Purdue was third with 96. The Hawkeyes scored 36 more points at this championships than they did in 2018 during a sixth-place finish in Bloomington, Indiana.
Prior to Sunday, Iowa’s most recent outdoor track and field title came in 2011, which was also the last time the event was held in Iowa City. That weekend, the Hawkeyes scored 125 ½ points, 2 ½ more than runner-up Minnesota.
Carter and Koenig were years away from making a Division I track and field roster in 2011. Now they are Big Ten champions.
Carter, a freshman from Oak Creek, Wisconsin, went 23-10 ¼ in the long jump (fifth place) and bounced back a day later to go 50-1 ¾ in the triple jump.
“It feels good because our team plan was for everybody to come out and fight,” Carter said. “We all really wanted this championship.”
Carter entered the Big Ten Championships seeded 14th in the long jump and 10th in the triple jump. He turned a projection of zero points into six key points for Iowa.
“To be honest, I feel this was a learning experience,” Carter said. “I will use this experience so I can be ready when I come back next year and do even better.”
Koenig was a fan of the Hawkeyes when he was growing up in nearby West Branch, Iowa. His personal best as a collegian is 23-5 ½, but his most memorable leap was his first attempt in the first flight on Saturday.
“I wanted to do whatever it took to get this team over the hump and get the win,” Koenig said. “I know every point counts in a meet like this, so to put the time in to make a podium means the world to me.”
Iowa had five first-team all-conference performers at the Big Ten Championships: seniors Chris Douglas, Mar’yea Harris, and Carter Lilly, and juniors Wayne Lawrence and Chris Thompson. The Hawkeyes also had two second-team all-conference performers in juniors Karayme Bartley and Jaylan McConico.
That group did the heavy lifting point-wise for Iowa. But contributions from Hawkeyes like Carter and Koenig were not overlooked.
“We have been planning this the whole last year,” Woody said. “The guys had a vision, mindset, drive, and heart. It was all about fighting and loving each other and doing it for the team.”