BY DARREN MILLER
GENEVA, Ohio — Two days, five races, three gold medals.
That was the line for University of Iowa sophomore Wayne Lawrence, Jr., who won the 400-meter dash, the 200, and anchored the winning 4×400 relay at the Big Ten Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 28-29 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
The Hawkeye men finished runner-up with 107 points — 13 ½ behind Indiana — with Lawrence accounting for 22 ½ points.
“I’m a competitor and wanted to get as many points as I could for a team win,” Lawrence said. “After the 400, you switch your head to 200 mode; you run the 200, then come back to the 4×4. I came out with three gold medals.”
Since there were preliminaries in the 200 and 400, Lawrence sprinted for 1,600 meters in five starts over the weekend. His winning time of 20.85 in the 200 is the second-fastest recorded in the Big Ten this season. Lawrence continues to lead the Big Ten with a school-record 45.56 in the 400, and the 4×400 relay of DeJuan Frye, Raymund Clarke, Antonio Woodard, and Lawrence ran 3:04.91, a SPIRE record and the fastest time in the Big Ten.
“He is an incredible athlete,” Iowa assistant coach Jason Wakenight said. “I can’t remember seeing a guy triple (at the Big Ten Championships) in the 2, 4, and 4×4 and come away with three golds. I’m sure it has happened, but not in a long time; it might have been longer than a decade that anyone has been able to do that, especially indoors.”
Making his feat more impressive is the fact Lawrence also has the Big Ten’s fastest time in the 600 (1:16.55). He did that Jan. 17 at the Larry Wieczorek Invitational in his first and only 600.
“Something that maybe intimidates other quarter milers is knowing he is too fast and you can’t get away, and he’s too strong and you’re not going to out-kick him,” Wakenight said. “How in the heck do you beat a guy like that?”
The answer last weekend…you don’t.
A year ago, in his first collegiate postseason performance, Lawrence was limited by a hamstring injury. Because of that, he didn’t compete in the 4×400 relay and placed eighth in the 400 with a time of 47.96. Two weeks later, he joined Collin Hofacker, Karayme Bartley, and Mar’yea Harris as the Hawkeye 4×400 finished sixth at the NCAA Championships in 3:07.68.
At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships last May, Lawrence was the first runner left out of the 400 finals, placing ninth in the preliminary.
Still, Wakenight knew Lawrence was capable of competing at a higher level. In the offseason, Lawrence committed to weight training and in year two as a Hawkeye, he hasn’t been held back by aches or pains.
“He trained all summer to start the season in a different place than he started last year,” Wakenight said.
Heading into the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 13-14 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Lawrence sits third in the nation in the 400 and the Hawkeyes are fourth in the 4×400 relay. He isn’t expected to enter the 200.
“I don’t think there is anyone at the national meet that definitively has an edge on him, he is as good as anybody out there in the 400,” Wakenight said. “We’re going to run to win and do something special.”
Until then, Lawrence will display his three new pieces of gold hardware.
“Hang them up,” he said.
More medals could soon join the group.