Tracksters pumped up for Drake


(The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez

Iowa's Carter Lilly is narrowly beaten by Nike's Erik Sowinski during the Musco Twilight event at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track on Saturday, April 23, 2016. The Musco Twilight brings in track and field athletes from all over Iowa to compete for Iowa City fans. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

The Hawkeye men’s track and field team has traveled to Des Moines for one Iowa’s biggest sports events of the year, the Drake Relays.

Competition for the 107th Drake Relays began Thursday; it will end on Saturday.

The Hawks have their eyes on what could be their 53rd event title at the Relays; the first came in 1923.

“The goal is to win the Hy-Vee Cup,” Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said. “We’ll have a lot of really good opportunities for us to come [away] with hopefully some flags and get some victory laps.”

Coming in at 22nd in the national rankings, the Hawkeyes bring speed and strength in both relays and individual events.

Woody noted that he was extremely confident about the relays.

“We’ve got some great relays all across the board,” he said. “Our distance medley really is going to be really good, as well as our 4×100 and everything in between.”

One in particular, the 800-meter relay, fans will not want to miss.

The Drake Relays marks the second time this season Iowa will compete in the event.

Previously, the Hawkeyes’ 4×200 relay competed in the Florida Relays on April 2. In Gainesville, the quartet of Brendan Thompson, Christian Brissett, James Harrington, and Jared Ganschow set a school record with a time of 1:23.36.

Aaron Mallett has competed in several relays this year, most recently being a part of the first-place 4×100 relay at the Musco Twilight on April 23. His forte, however, is the hurdles.

The 110-meter hurdler leads the conference with his 13.50 second time, and he ranks fourth nationally.

He wants to keep the momentum going; he is coming off of his third-straight victory in the 110 hurdles at Musco. And he wants to snag a Drake Relays flag.

“That’s my main focus,” he said. “I also want to help my team win the Hy-Vee Cup, that’s a really big thing, too. I think we have the guys to do it. Just executing what I can do and helping the team out, that’s my biggest thing.”

Getting a flag at Drake has been on the junior’s mind for quite some time.

“I really want one of those flags,”he said. “It’s like something to cross off my bucket list.”

Mallett’s goals line up with his teammates’ aspirations.Hurdler Mitch Wolff believes that Iowa can make a huge mark at this year’s Relays, noting his focus is on the Hy-Vee Cup.

“Last year we weren’t even in contention, but this year, we want to make a statement,” he said. “The Drake Relays is an Iowa-sponsored event, so we want a team from Iowa to win it.”

Last season Illinois won the meet with 33 points, followed by Arkansas (18 points) and Baylor (16 points). Iowa finished 16th (5 points).

Even though there are plenty of teams from around the country traveling to Des Moines to compete, Wolff and his teammates believe Drake presents a home-field advantage to Iowa.

“I’m looking forward to the atmosphere more than anything,” Wolff said. “It’s a big stage, but [it] feels like a home meet with all the love and support we get from Hawkeye fans.”

Other athletes, especially in the sprints, are primed for the Blue Oval.

Harrington, Brissett, and Vinnie Saucer Jr. have made noise all season long in the 100 and 200 meters and in the relays.

Saucer has been here before, winning his heat in the 100 before going on to place seventh in the finals. He was also on Iowa’s 4×100 that finished third in its heat.

In the mid-distance group, Carter Lilly should shine. The sophomore ran the second-best 800-meters in school history at the Texas Invitational (1:47.32). Freshmen DeJuan Frye and Mar’yea

Harris have also been important factors for Iowa in the 400 meters and 4×400 relay.

In the field events, redshirt freshman Reno Tuufuli commands the throws. The Las Vegas native will compete in the discus and shot put. Senior Kevin Spejcher will compete in the high jump following a strong performance at Musco.

Follow @A_Hens83 for Iowa men’s track news, updates, and analysis.


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