Tracksters amped up for Big Tens

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Tracksters amped up for Big Tens

Iowa's Aaron Mallett makes it over the final hurdle in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2016 Drake Relays on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Mallett finsihed in third place with a time of 13.58. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Iowa's Aaron Mallett makes it over the final hurdle in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2016 Drake Relays on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Mallett finsihed in third place with a time of 13.58. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Iowa's Aaron Mallett makes it over the final hurdle in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2016 Drake Relays on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Mallett finsihed in third place with a time of 13.58. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Iowa's Aaron Mallett makes it over the final hurdle in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2016 Drake Relays on Saturday, April 30, 2016. Mallett finsihed in third place with a time of 13.58. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

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In its first championship meet this season, the Iowa men’s track team will head to Lincoln, Nebraska, today through May 15 for the Big Ten meet.

Iowa comes into the meet ranked No. 28 nationally following its eighth-place finish at the Drake Relays on April 30.

With two weeks free from competition, the Hawkeyes benefited from some much needed rest in advance of their first championship.

Hawkeye Director of Track and Field Joey Woody acknowledged that the team needs to be fresh competing in what he believes is the nation’s top conference.

“I always say we are in the best conference, top to bottom,” Woody said. “When you look at every event, it’s extremely competitive. It’s probably more so than any other conference in the country because there’s so much depth in every event. There’s not one event that’s weak.”

Two teams from the Big Ten rank in the top 25: Minnesota (14) and Penn State (15). Five other teams rank in the top 50.

Last year, Michigan State hosted the Big Ten Championships. Iowa finished third, behind Illinois (first) and Nebraska (second).

Hurdler Aaron Mallett took home the top place in the 110-meter hurdles, and Vinnie Saucer Jr. finished second in the 100 meters.

Looking to repeat as a Big Ten champion, Mallett comes off of a performance at the Drake Relays in which he — his toughest critic — noted there is room for improvement.

“I just need to execute my race,” he said. “If I get out and can stay out, I’ll be in good shape.”

The junior finished third in 13.58 seconds, 0.58 seconds off his conference-leading best time of the season.

Trying to dethrone him as the best hurdler in the Big Ten, Illinois’ Cam Viney and Nebraska’s Antoine Lloyd are the only hurdlers aside from Mallett to finish under 14 seconds this season in the 110.

In the 400-meter hurdles, Iowa’s Mitch Wolff and Noah Larrison both rank in the Big Ten’s top five, adding to the conference’s best hurdle squad.

In the sprints, Saucer strives to maintain his status as top sprinter in the conference. During the indoor season, he won the Big Ten’s 60 meters.

The reigning champ competed in the 100 meters at Drake, in which he placed third. He said that he was satisfied with his 10.46-second time, but acknowledged that his start needed work.

“I need to make sure my 100 is perfected once the Big Ten meet starts,” he said.

Also in the sprints, James Harrington and Christian Brissett rank top five in the 200 meters. Harrington’s season-best time of 20.57 seconds puts him right behind leader Nick Gray of Ohio State.

Iowa’s coaching staff made the decision to hold Harrington out of the Drake Relays in an effort to reduce the risk of tweaking an injury that sidelined him during the Musco Twilight on April 23. Woody wanted to be sure Iowa would have one of its fastest runners at full strength for the championships.

Harrington’s health also affects the relays immensely. Iowa’s 4×100 leads the conference after its performance at the Jim Click Shootout. If he’s 100 percent, expect the relay to remain atop the Big Ten.

In the field events, redshirt freshman Reno Tuufuli is the Big Ten’s top discus thrower. At the Florida Relays, he threw for 60.71 meters, his season best, and it kept him atop the list all year.

Iowa’s Kevin Spejcher’s high jump of 7-1 at the Musco Twilight elevated him to third in the conference. The next Hawkeye, Peter Andreano, is 19th with a jump of 6-7.”

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