Leistikow: Hawkeyes show program strength with Big Ten track and field title

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Track and field can often be centered around individual glory, with unforgettable images of a single athlete crossing the finish line in first place. But when done right, it can be a beautiful team sport.

That collective joy was on display Sunday afternoon at the Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track. Nearly an hour after their men’s team had won the Big Ten Conference Championships, Iowa athletes were still hugging each other and exchanging smiles, laughs … and even tears.

The Hawkeyes had put forth a stirring 3 hours of performances, moving from 12th place to first place in the Big Ten. A comeback win in the 4x400-meter relay, with anchor leg Mar’yea Harris running a split of 45.47 seconds, added a final 10 points to Iowa’s winning team score of 116. Indiana finished second, at 103.

“Just to see how my teammates felt after I crossed the finish line and got the win,” Harris said, “it was such an amazing feeling to see them all happy.”

Iowa's Mar'yea Harris, center, gets embraced by teammate Wayne Lawrence Jr. after anchoring in the 4x400 meter relay during the final day of Big Ten track and field outdoor championships, Sunday, May 12, 2019, at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, Iowa. The Hawkeyes won, with a time of 3:07.36.

Big Ten titles aren't exactly commonplace around here. Since Iowa last won in track in 2011, Hawkeye men's teams have three conference crowns — wrestling in 2015, baseball in 2017 … and now track and field in 2019.

The Hawkeyes deserved to celebrate this one.

“We came in here, knew what we needed to do, and got it done,” said senior Chris Douglas, whose win the 400-meter hurdles in 50.32 seconds — along with a 3-5 finish from teammates Raymonte Dow and Noah Larrison — pushed Iowa into the team lead for the first time.

Iowa scored 41 points alone in two hurdle events, with the Hawkeyes following their coach’s lead.

Hawkeyes track and field director Joey Woody, who grew up in Iowa City, was a world-class hurdler in his day. When he was elevated into that role in 2015, he brought an approach of speed and power to the program that was on full display Sunday.

Iowa got contributions up and down the lineup, which became necessary when top thrower Reno Tuufuli was suspended indefinitely Thursday. And, sure, the Hawkeyes had star power, too.

Harris and Karayme Bartley went 1-2 in the 400 meters, then Harris brought it home in the 4x400.

There's a hope that Iowa could make some noise at the NCAA Championships, too. And the program should be strong again next year.

But getting a Big Ten title was, well … big.

“We’ve been planning this, the whole last year,” Woody said. “The guys had a vision and a mindset and a drive and a heart. Just all about fighting and loving each other and doing it for the team.”

Woody hoped the weekend would be a 1-2 punch with his women’s team also bringing home.

But the Hawkeye women finished in third place, with 93 points. Ohio State won with 126. Still, the third-place finish tied Iowa’s best in women’s program history.

On the men's side, though, this was something special. Especially for Woody.

His track coach at City High School and dear friend/mentor John Raffensperger passed away April 22 at age 79. Raffensperger had been a volunteer coach with Woody the past 13 years with the Hawkeyes.

Woody, who was a pallbearer at Raffensperger’s funeral, began crying Sunday after the Big Ten title was secured. He pointed to a patch on his jacket that said “RAFF,” and the moment hit him.

“I haven’t cried up to this point through everything. This is the first time I’ve let it loose,” Woody said. “He wanted to be here so bad. That’s what he was fighting for. But he had the best seat in the house.”

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.

Iowa Hawkeyes men celebrate during the final day of Big Ten track and field outdoor championships, Sunday, May 12, 2019, at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, Iowa.

Big Ten Championships: Men's results

Team scores

1. Iowa, 116; 2. Indiana, 103; 3. Purdue, 96; 4. Nebraska, 76.5; 5. Ohio State, 72; 6. Michigan, 54.5; 7. Michigan State, 53; 8. Minnesota, 51; 9. Penn State, 50; 10. Wisconsin, 49; 11. Rutgers, 37; 12. Illinois, 31; 13. Maryland, 29.

Sunday’s finals (winners, plus Iowa point-scorers)

Triple jump — 1. Tamar Greene, Purdue, 53 feet, 0 inches; 8. James Carter, Iowa, 50-1¾.

Discus — 1. Greg Thompson, Maryland, 189-6.

4x100 meter relay — 1. Purdue, 39.39; 4. Iowa (Collin Hofacker, Antonio Woodard, Wayne Lawrence Jr., Karayme Bartley), 39.59.

1,500 — Justine Kiprotich, Michigan State, 3:42.69.

110 high hurdles — 1. Will Agodu, Michigan State, 13.75; 2. Jaylan McConico, Iowa, 13.78; 3. Anthony Williams, Iowa, 13.81; 5. Chris Douglas, Iowa, 13.93; 6. Josh Braverman, Iowa, 13.96.

400 — 1. Mar'yea Harris, Iowa, 45.67; 2. Karayme Bartley, Iowa, 45.80.

100 — 1. Devin Quinn, Illinois, 10.11; 7. Antonio Woodard, Iowa, 10.40.

800 — 1. Cooper Williams, Indiana, 1:48.69; 4. Matt Manternach, Iowa, 1:49.16; 5. Nolan Teubel, Iowa, 1:49.54; 6. Tysen VanDraska, Iowa, 1:49.58.

400 hurdles — 1. Chris Douglas, Iowa, 50.32; 3. Raymonte Dow, Iowa, 51.37; 5. Noah Larrison, Iowa, 51.64.

200 — 1. Nick Gray, Ohio State, 20.23; 3. Antonio Woodard, Iowa, 20.69; 6. Karayme Bartley, Iowa, 20.97.

5,000 — 1. Ben Veatch, Indiana, 14:35.45.

4x400 relay — 1. Iowa (Wayne Lawrence Jr., Chris Thompson, Carter Lilly, Mar'yea Harris), 3:07.36.

Big Ten Championships: Women's results

Team scores

1. Ohio State, 126; 2. Indiana, 95; 3. Iowa, 93; 4. Nebraska, 92.5; 5. Minnesota, 90; 6. Penn State, 68; 7. Wisconsin, 60; 8. Michigan State, 49; 9. Purdue, 39; 10. Maryland, 35; 11. Michigan, 31; 12. Rutgers, 20; 13. Illinois, 18.5.

Sunday’s finals (winners, plus Iowa point-scorers)

Discus — 1. Laulauga Tausaga, Iowa, 197 feet, 9 inches; 2. Konstadina Spanoudakis, Iowa, 173-8.

Triple jump — 1. Leah Moran, Indiana, 42-7; 7. Amanda Carty, Iowa, 39-9¾.

4x100 meter relay — 1. Ohio State, 43.99; 7. Iowa (Antonise Christian, Talia Buss, Amanda Carty, Aly Weum), 45.83.

1,500 — 1. Danae Rivers, Penn State, 4:17.69.

100 hurdles — 1. Jasmine Barge, Nebraska, 13.25; 2. Jenny Kimbro, Iowa, 13.38; 6. Tria Simmons, Iowa, 13.72.

400 — 1. Alexis Holmes, Penn State, 52.17; 2. Briana, Guillory, Iowa, 52.66.

100 — 1. Anavia Battle, Ohio State, 11.32; 6. Antonise Christian, Iowa, 11.81.

800 — 1. Danae Rivers, Penn State, 2:04.71.

400 hurdles — 1. Reanda Richards, Rutgers, 57.68; 5. Jenny Kimbro, Iowa, 58.41. 

200 — 1. Anavia Battle, Ohio State, 22.73; 2. Briana Guillory, Iowa, 23.31. 

5,000 — 1. Abby Nichols, Ohio State, 15:56. 

4x400 relay — 1. Purdue, 3:36.63; 4. Iowa (Jenny Kimbro, Tria Simmons, Payton Wensel, Briana Guillory), 3:38.47.