IOWA CITY, Ia. — Iowa’s track-and-field program has a chance to pounce on an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often.
Hosting the outdoor Big Ten championships — which the Hawkeyes will do this weekend for the first time since 2011 — is big enough. Add in that Iowa is in position to sweep the men’s and women’s team titles, and it could be a magical three days in Iowa City.
The competition begins at noon Friday. There are seven event finals Friday and eight more Saturday. The third day of competition begins at 11 a.m. Sunday, when 25 more champions will be crowned.
“A lot of emotions, as far as being able to host a Big Ten championship,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said this week. “Every time we get the opportunity to host a Big Ten championship, the administration is all-in. They make sure we host the best meets in the country. Really excited to be able to host Big Tens.
“Just to be able to be at home and our kids get to stay in their own beds, things like that, that’s always beneficial for us. Any time you’re going into the championship season, there’s always extra excitement.”
The men’s team is ranked 18th and the women sit 15th, according to the Week 6 poll released by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Their predictions for this weekend have both Iowa squads finishing in the top two: the men first, and the women second.
Top challengers on the men’s side are Nebraska and Purdue. Iowa’s toughest women's competition will come from Ohio State and Minnesota.
“I think it’s going to be a really good experience. Big Ten is a Power Five conference, and I’m coming from the (Missouri Valley),” said hurdler Jaylan McConico, an Illinois State transfer. “So it’s a completely new atmosphere, but I’m really looking forward to it. I like the tier of the competition. It helps me elevate my level of running.
“It’s a big change, because coming from my last school, we weren’t really in the hunt for championships. It’s nice to be on a team where we’re all on the same mission, chasing the same goal. It really just helps with the atmosphere going into the competition.”
When looking at the top eight results across all events in the conference, you see Hawkeyes mentioned 41 times. Eighteen of those are ranked in the top three. Iowa leads the Big Ten in eight events — seven individual events and the men’s 1,600-meter relay.
Additionally, Iowa has 12 individual marks inside the nation’s top 16. Headlining that ledger is junior Laulauga Tausaga, who ranks second in the shot put and discus throws. The 1,600-meter quartet of Wayne Lawrence Jr., Antonio Woodward, Collin Hofacker and Mar’yea Harris is third fastest nationally.
Those accolades and more are why Iowa is bubbling with confidence.
“I’m super excited,” middle-distance runner Taylor Arco said. “Our team has a really good history of hosting Big Tens. I think this is the strongest team we’ve had in a few years, so it’s going to be a good one. We just have a lot of depth in all of our events. I think our team has really come together from being on the track to being on the field. I think we have at least one or two people who could score in every event.”
Jubilation emerged the last time Iowa hosted the conference championships. The Hawkeye men won the team title in 2011, a moment that’s resurfaced plenty this week.
Iowa hopes to add on to the memories.
“You feel good when your teams are ranked high,” Woody said, “and everyone is competing at a high level right now.”
Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.