Ohio State outpaces short-handed Iowa to win Big Ten men's track championship

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central
Iowa’s Julien Gillum celebrates after winning the 400-meter hurdles at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

When Iowa rolled to the Big Ten Conference indoor championship in men’s track and field in late February, it seemed to be a safe prediction that the Hawkeyes would hoist another trophy in mid-May.

But those Hawkeyes on the track then weren’t the same ones that made it to the track in Minneapolis this past weekend at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Minus three elite runners, short-handed Iowa's 103 points finished runner-up to champion Ohio State's 124.

The Hawkeyes were trying to become the first Big Ten program since Wisconsin in 2004-07 to win at least three straight (contested) outdoor conference championships.

“We didn’t have a bad meet at all,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said Sunday, as the Buckeyes were being awarded the championship trophies. (Ohio State won the women’s side, too.) “We actually had a good meet for the guys we were able to put on the track. I’m not making any excuses, obviously, because this is what track and field and athletics are about. You’ve got to get your athletes to the start line feeling healthy.

"And unfortunately, we had some guys that weren’t able to be here with us. But we’ll grow from it. And we’ll get better as a team."

Iowa crowned one champion in 21 men’s events; the Hawkeye women finished sixth and had one gold medal.

But the big story was who was missing for the men.

Jenoah McKiver, whose 400-meter run of 44.74 seconds from early April was the second-fastest in the world at the time, remained sidelined with a lingering hamstring injury. Also missing was Wayne Lawrence Jr., who owns the sixth-fastest 400 in program history. And sprinter Kalen Walker, who earlier this season set a school record by running 10.20 seconds in the 100-meter dash, will not return this season.

After the meet, Woody was noncommittal about whether McKiver or Lawrence would be able to return for the NCAA West qualifying meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas, May 25-28. McKiver is a national-title front-runner in the 400, and both help the Hawkeyes’ annually strong 4x400-meter relay. If they could return, Iowa has a chance to make some long-term noise at the June 8-11 NCAA Championships. Woody has called this Iowa team, when healthy, the best in program history.

“We’re just trying to bring (McKiver) back. His head’s in the right place. Him and Wayne both, it’s a process,” Woody said. “We have to be smart about where they’re at, because they have a long successful career in front of them. So, we don’t want to rush them back too soon.”

Junior Julien Gillum delivered the Hawkeyes’ lone title on the men side, with his run of 51.17 seconds in the 400 hurdles. Iowa actually took four of the top seven spots in that event, with freshman Phillip Jefferson taking third, junior Raymonte Dow sixth and sophomore Drake Woody (Joey’s son) in seventh.

“One of the biggest story lines here is how many freshmen and sophomores on our team that we had step up,” Joey Woody said, “and not only score points but make the top three.

“They’re going to have a bad taste in their mouth after this, and they’re going to be very, very excited to get back at it. Not only next year, but I’m talking in these next two weeks. We’ve still got a long season and big goals to still accomplish for our men’s team.”

Iowa’s Erin Dowd takes the baton from Mariel Bruxvoort in the 4x400-meter finals Sunday. Bruxvoort, Dowd, Payton Wensel and Tesa Roberts finished second in the event.

Junior Amanda Howe's title in the hammer throw on Friday led the Iowa women. Iowa’s 4x400 finished in second place with the third-fastest time in school history (3:33.18), pushing the Hawkeyes past Michigan for sixth in the team race. Woody said earlier this week he thought the women’s program was two years away from contending for a Big Ten title.

“We had some great things happen. We just didn’t have enough bullets to give us a shot to be one of those top three or four teams,” Woody said. “We’re definitely trending in the right direction. I sense that. We’ve got a lot of young contributors on our team.”

Iowa has won five conference titles as an athletics department in the 2021-22 year: field hockey (regular season), women’s basketball (regular season and tournament), men’s basketball (tournament) and men’s track and field (indoor). Baseball – which has its tournament May 24-28 in Omaha — is the final shot for the Hawkeyes to nab a sixth.