Two years later, Iowa men repeat Big Ten outdoor track title with 'a complete team win'
Iowa’s latest Big Ten Conference championship in men’s track and field had the fingerprints of its head coach all over it.
Joey Woody’s senior season at Iowa City High in the early 1990s kicked off a string on nine consecutive Class 4-A state titles that were built around star power and incredible depth.
Woody’s best events as an athlete — from high school to Northern Iowa to the international stage — were in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles.
And in Champaign, Illinois, this past weekend, Woody’s Hawkeyes got star performances in the hurdles and delivered a complete team performance.
Iowa scored 127½ team points, a school record and the most by any Big Ten program at the outdoor meet since Nebraska in 2016, to comfortably outdistance second-place Michigan (94½). That’s back-to-back Big Ten outdoor crowns for the Hawkeyes, who won the title in Iowa City in 2019. Last year’s season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which made repeating as champs a two-year project. Many seniors returned for an encore year to embrace this opportunity to compete for the Hawkeyes one last time.
Woody was tearful after the 2019 title, having recently lost longtime mentor (and his City High coach) John Raffensperger. This one felt like the end of a long race to the finish line.
"Especially missing last season and the emotional roller-coaster we had to deal with last year … and were pretty much shut down all fall and summer," said Woody, who was given a Gatorade shower (of water) by his athletes after the final event. "We just had to keep our student-athletes engaged and keep them focused and driven. They were able to come out on top. This one really means a lot."
Jaylan McConico tied a meet record and set an Iowa school record with his winning run of 13.23 seconds in the 110 hurdles early Sunday. Teammate Jamal Britt took silver in the 110s at 13.60 and later ran to the victory in the 400 hurdles, turning in the second-fastest time in Hawkeye history at 49.69 seconds. Britt also took second in the long jump on Saturday. The Hawkeyes totaled 47 team points in the two hurdles races and long jump alone.
After his men claimed the program’s first outright Big Ten indoor crown since 1929 in February, Woody left the meet in Ohio somewhat unsatisfied. He said the 27-point margin of victory then should’ve been 50. This time, Woody seemed slightly more content with the 33-point separation between first and second.
“Tremendous performances all across the board today. Thirty-plus points is great. I still want more," Woody said. "But I’m very happy to win by that many points, especially as competitive as this conference is.
"This was a complete team win."
Adding to the complete performance was Wayne Lawrence’s silver-medal run in the 400 meters (45.46 seconds), Tysen VanDraska’s silver in the 800 (1:48.67) and a second-place run in the 4x100 relay. James Carter placed second in the triple-jump (16.08 meters, or 52 feet, 9¼ inches) and third in the long jump. On Saturday, Will Daniels (decathlon) and Nathan Mylenek (3,000 steeplechase) won silver to build momentum for a comfortable Hawkeye win on Sunday.
The NCAA regionals, May 27-29 in College Station, Texas, are next. Iowa entered the Big Tens rated No. 1 in the Midwest, and Woody expects the national ranking of No. 21 will go up.
“We are going to be ranked pretty high, based on the performances we put out this past weekend," Woody said. "So we’re in a really good spot heading into the postseason. We’ve got to keep our heads straight and get our athletes to the starting line, feeling good."
Sunday’s finish continued a banner year for Iowa sports in the Big Ten. That’s now five conference championships for the Hawkeyes in this 2020-21 academic year. The two track and field titles were joined this year by wrestling, women’s gymnastics (regular season) and soccer (tournament). That doesn’t count the field hockey team reaching the Final Four and the women’s basketball program getting to the Big Ten title game and NCAA Sweet 16.
The Iowa women’s team finished in fourth place in Champaign with 75 points; Ohio State was the team champion with 117. That followed up Iowa's third-place showing at the Big Ten indoors. As usual, Laulauga Tausaga was the headliner. She won the discus throw with a heave of 62.09 meters (203 feet, 8 inches — which outdistanced the second-place thrower, teammate Serena Brown’s 185-9, by nearly 18 feet).
As a result, Tausaga became the first four-time outdoor champion in a single event in Iowa program history. That is just one accomplishment of what the 2019 NCAA discus champion and U.S. Olympic hopeful hopes is many in 2021.
“She’s the ultimate competitor. I don’t know too many people that compete like she does," Woody said. "... To be able to come in and win four straight years when the target’s on your back says a lot about her character. But she has big goals. She expects to be a national champ and make the (U.S.) Olympic team, and make the Olympic final and make the (Olympic) podium."
Hawkeye point-scorers (top 8) Sunday at Big Ten championships
Information compiled by the University of Iowa.