IOWA CITY, Iowa— The University of Iowa track and field teams kick off their 2021-22 indoor campaign this Saturday, hosting the Jimmy Grant Invitational at 10 a.m. (CT) beginning with throwing events at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center. All other events will follow at the Hawkeye Indoor Track.
“We are extremely excited about the men’s team as we enter the indoor season,” Director of Track & Field Joey Woody said. “I believe this is the deepest and most talented group of athletes we’ve had since I’ve been the head coach at Iowa. Not only do we return multiple Big Ten medalists and NCAA All-Americans, we also added some very talented freshmen and transfers who will be immediate contributors to our overall team success. We are competing to defend our Big Ten Indoor Championship, and I believe we have the athletes to be a top-10 NCAA team. If the season goes as expected and we keep everyone healthy, we feel that we can contend for a trophy at the NCAA Outdoor meet this year. We are looking forward to opening up this weekend.”
The Hawkeyes come off one of the best seasons in program history. Iowa completed a Big Ten Championship sweep on the men’s side for the first time since 1963 — its outdoor title marking two-in-a-row. The indoor conference championship was the fourth in school history. The Hawkeyes had 10 medalists, including Big Ten champions James Carter, Jr. in long jump and Peyton Haack in the heptathlon. Director of track and field Joey Woody also became the first coach in program history to sweep the indoor and outdoor coach of the year awards.
Iowa entered the NCAA Indoor Championships ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region and No. 18 nationally. The Hawkeyes reached as high as No. 9 nationally last season — the best ranking in school history. The Iowa men had four events ranked in the nation’s top 10 entering the NCAA Indoor Championships, including the 400 meters (2), 60-meter hurdles (2), long jump (4) and shot put (7). The Hawkeye men finished the 2020-21 indoor season with four All-America honors. Returning this season on the men’s side is five-time indoor All-American Wayne Lawrence Jr. (400m honorable mention 2021), second-team All-America heptathletes Peyton Haack and Austin West, as well as national 60-meter hurdles runner-up Jamal Britt.
DIRECTOR OF TRACK & FIELD JOEY WOODY ON MEN’S SPRINTS & HURDLES…
“We’re very excited about this group and the number of veterans we have who have been Big Ten finalists and NCAA All-Americans. School record holder Jamal Britt leads this group as the top-individual returner in the 60-meter hurdles from the NCAA Championships last year, finishing runner-up in one of the fastest races in NCAA history. He’s looking to win his first Big Ten individual title this season, but will be challenged by multiple teammates including 2021 Big Ten runner-up Gratt Reed, NCAA Qualifier and Big Ten medalist Josh Braverman, and 2020 Big Ten finalist Grant Conway.
“We’re very excited in the immediate development of freshman Kalil Johnson. He was the Illinois State Champion in both hurdle events and will continue our long tradition of great hurdlers in the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Everyone in our hurdle crew has the ability to be a Big Ten finalist and compete to win the title.
“The short-sprint group is led by Austin Kresley, who was a multiple Big Ten indoor and outdoor finalist last season in the 200 meters. He qualified to the NCAA West Regional in the 200 meters and was an NCAA Second-Team All-American on our 4×100-meter relay. Austin is looking to earn his first individual medal this season.
“We’re very excited about the addition of Kalen Walker, who joins us after one season at Indian Hills Community College. Kalen has shown us this fall that he will be an immediate contributor and has the ability to make the Big Ten final in both the 60 and 200 meters this indoor season.
“Big Ten-relay point scorer Drake Woody is a 400-meter hurdler outdoors, but his training this fall has been geared towards being a contributor in the 600 meters at the Big Ten level. He will compete to make his first individual final at the Big Ten Championships.”
ASSISTANT COACH JASON WAKENIGHT ON MEN’S MIDDLE-DISTANCE…
“This is by far the deepest mid-distance group we’ve ever had. I love the versatility of this group and think we have a chance to make an enormous impact in the Big Ten and at the national level. Juniors Alec Still and Tyler Olson had breakthrough seasons last year and they have picked up right where they left off. I think both will be fighting for Big Ten medals.
“Sophomore Spencer Gudgel and freshmen Armando Bryson and Jason Hoffman form a trio of exciting young runners who can make similar jumps in the 800 meters, as all three just missed breaking the 1:50 mark as freshmen last season. Gudgel and Bryson will contribute in the 600 meters throughout the indoor season while chasing after our school record. The three will be hunting down spots at the NCAA meet this year and contribute as meaningful relay members in both the DMR and 4×400-meter relay. They’ve created a fantastic culture and an extremely competitive environment.
“Adding to this veteran mix is newcomer Antonio Abrego. Antonio is a future star in our program and has had flashes of brilliance throughout the fall. I love his maturity and his work ethic. He’s been a tremendous addition, and I can’t wait to watch him race.
“As a unit, we can challenge to be the best 800-meter group in the NCAA, and we aren’t going to be shy about our goal of chasing the spot at the top of the podium. We expect to have the greatest season in Iowa history.”
ASSISTANT COACH JASON WAKENIGHT ON MEN’S LONG SPRINTS…
“This year, our men’s long sprints group has the chance to be historically good. This group is loaded with exciting new faces and veteran athletes who have competed at the highest level of track and field. This group returns Wayne Lawrence, Jr., who despite health concerns and injuries, broke our indoor school record and walked away with multiple All-America honors and three Big Ten silver medals. We did not get to see Wayne at his best. With a good fall under his belt, we are going to see Wayne take himself to an entirely new level and rewrite the record books.
“Freshman Jenoah McKiver is the other half of what could be the best one-two punch in the nation. Jenoah has been elite throughout the fall and broke our all-time 300-meter record in training. He is extremely versatile and could help us in everything from 200 to 600 meters.
“Junior Julien Gillum had a really nice 2021 season and after making the Big Ten indoor and outdoor final, is on the verge of some huge performances.
“Our most improved individual is Khullen Jefferson. He is so much better than he was at any point last season and is on a mission to become the next great Iowa quarter-miler.
“In addition to these great returnees, we have added some fresh faces with instant-impact talent. The standout newcomer of the fall has been freshman Chadrick Richards, who looks like the second coming of Mar’yea Harris. He has all the tools to become a 44-second guy and just needs some time to train and develop. He is poised to explode onto the Big Ten-track scene.
“The other young guy to keep an eye on is freshman PJ [Phillip] Jefferson. He is a wonderful talent who can hurdle and run anything from the 400 meters all the way up to the 800 meters. I love what he brings to the table.
“This long sprint group should score points and be in the hunt for an NCAA title in the 4×400-meter relay. We want to be the best and we have the talent to make it happen.”
ASSISTANT COACH RAY ROBINSON ON MEN’S THROWS…
“The throws squad has been putting in serious work this fall, not only in terms of physical preparation, but changes technically as well. Our goal for the season is to see improvement from those changes and to see how they carry over to bigger and more consistent results, especially when it matters most. They have embraced the path we are on and this will allow us to have the success we want as a team.
“For the men, it has been more about finding that next level and staying at that level as a group. Senior Tyler Lienau is back after finishing fourth in the weight throw at Big Ten’s last year. We expect him to be in the mix for a podium position once again.
“Junior Elijah Barnes is the top returning Hawkeye shot putter, finishing sixth at the Big Ten Championships last year. He leads a group of men’s shot putters that we expect to make leaps this year in terms of competitiveness at the Big Ten level.
“One of the biggest improvements is being made by sophomore discus standout Jordan Johnson. He has accepted the challenge to compete in both shot put and weight throw.
“We also look forward to adding Nik Curtiss at the semester, who finished 17th at the Olympic Trials and has a personal-best throw of 19.78 meters in shot put.
“We know, without a doubt, that we have some guys who will make some noise that you may haven’t heard of before, and we look forward to that as the season progresses.”
ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH RANDY HASENBANK ON MEN’S DISTANCE…
“We have a couple of tremendous young athletes returning on the men’s side. Max Murphy and Kal Lewis made significant contributions to our program as freshmen. Max ranks third all-time (Iowa) in the 3,000 meters with his performance last winter. His time of 7:59.30 in the 3,000-meter run ranks him, not only third here at Iowa, but it was also one of the top junior (under 20) marks in the entire world. Max also ran 4:06.70 in the mile, ranking him ninth all-time at Iowa. Lewis, arrived in Iowa City with a career best of 4:15 in the mile and having never broken the two-minute barrier for 800 meters. By the end of the indoor campaign, Kal was third all-time in the mile (4:04.21) while advancing to the Big Ten final. During the outdoor season he posted the No. 2 all-time mark in the 1,500 meters (3:43.42), and ran 1:51.80 in the 800 meters. These two bring some scoring power to the mile and 3,000 meters as we head into the indoor season. I expect both will contribute to what should be a great distance medley relay team once we put that group together.
“I also expect senior Noah Healy, sophomore Nick Trattner and senior Jeff Roberts to continue to improve and contribute. Noah and Nick ranked sixth and ninth all-time in the indoor 5,000 meters, and are coming off very impressive fall cross country performances. We need them to pick up where they left off last winter. Nick has been one our most improved distance runners from year one to year two, and Noah followed a similar trajectory. We need them to take it to the next level and battle for points in the Big Ten meet.
“Jeff Roberts has been a part of a DMR that has scored points and we need him to work toward advancing to the final in the mile while continuing to contribute to the DMR at the Big Ten Championship meet.”
DIRECTOR OF TRACK & FIELD JOEY WOODY ON MEN’S JUMPS & MULTIS…
“The men’s jumps and multis group is led by Big Ten Champion, NCAA All-American and Olympic Trials qualifier James Carter. James was our highest point scorer for the team last season while earning his first Big Ten title in the long jump and medaling in the triple jump. James has been training at a very high level since last summer and is focused on competing to win both jumps at the Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships and qualify for his first NCAA Indoor meet.
“Big Ten point scorers Deandre Stapleton and Kaleba Jack add tremendous depth to our very talented jumps group. Both athletes have the ability to medal at the Big Ten Championships this season.
“The multi-event group is led by two of the best multi-athletes in the NCAA — Big Ten Champion and NCAA Qualifier Peyton Haack and multiple Big Ten medalist and NCAA Qualifier Austin West. Both athletes have had amazing off-season training, will contend for the Big Ten title and look to score at the NCAA championships.
“The men’s high jump is led by Big Ten scorer Zack Pluff. He’s working hard to be a more consistent 6-foot-10 to 6-foot-11 jumper and is looking to clear the 7-foot-plus bar this season.
“We are very excited about the addition of Noah James. Noah is a great all-around athlete and has the tools to be a Big Ten point scorer. Keith Keahna has had a fantastic off-season and probably had the best improvement from a year ago in his athletic development. Keith is very motivated to make the Big Ten travel roster and compete to score at the Big Ten Championships.”