Track Big Tens return to Hawkeye Nation

The last time the Big Ten Outdoor Championships were held in Iowa City, the Iowa men came away with a title. The Hawkeyes hope that history will repeat itself this weekend.

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Track Big Tens return to Hawkeye Nation

Iowa's Carter Lilly rounds the track during the men's 4x800m race at the 2019 Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, on Friday, April 26, 2019.

Iowa's Carter Lilly rounds the track during the men's 4x800m race at the 2019 Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, on Friday, April 26, 2019.

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Carter Lilly rounds the track during the men's 4x800m race at the 2019 Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, on Friday, April 26, 2019.

Shivansh Ahuja

Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa's Carter Lilly rounds the track during the men's 4x800m race at the 2019 Drake Relays in Des Moines, IA, on Friday, April 26, 2019.

Robert Read, Sports Reporter

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The Big Ten Outdoor Championships are back in town this weekend for the first time since 2011, and Iowa track and field hopes that history will repeat itself.

Eight years ago, when the Big Ten meet was last held at Cretzmeyer Track, the Iowa men won their first Big Ten title since 1967 in a thrilling battle with second-place Minnesota.

The conference crown came down to the last event, and the Hawkeyes came up clutch, finishing second in the 1,600-meter relay to beat Minnesota by 1.42 seconds. That clinched the championship for Iowa; the Hawkeyes edged the Gophers by 2.5 points (125.5-123).

The notion that the last time Iowa won a conference championship was also the last time the event was at home has not been lost on this season’s squad.

“They probably get tired of me talking about it,” Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said. “We always talk about how great it was to be able to host and win a Big Ten Championship on the men’s side in 2011.”

A key component of the men’s team being able to come out on top in 2011 was the electric Iowa crowd. Having the comfort of competing at home and the friendly cheers coming from the bleachers gave the Hawkeyes the boost it needed to win the title.

“The atmosphere then was great, and we need to be able to re-create it this time around,” Woody said. “Being at home and having a lot of alums coming back to support us is going to be a lot of fun for our student-athletes. I’m pretty confident that they are all going to rise to the occasion.”

RELATED: Iowa track and field awaiting the Big Ten Outdoor Championships

A home crowd is always advantageous, but the product Iowa is putting out on the track this season is potentially the best in the conference.

The men are ranked first in the Big Ten according to the coaches’ association, and the women are ranked second, trailing only Ohio State. Factoring the home-track advantage, both squads could be considered favorites this weekend.

That notion of being the favorites, as well as being on a team where there are athletes in every competition capable of putting up points, is a new one for Jaylan McConico.

He is in his first year competing for Iowa after transferring from Illinois State, and he is more than excited to be chasing a championship.

“It’s a big change,” McConico said. “Coming from my old school, we were not really in the hunt for championships, so it’s nice to be on a team where we are all on the same page, all on the same mission to accomplish the same goal.”

Hawkeye Tria Saunders is also on that championship hunt.

Saunders, a middle-distance runner, counts on the home-track advantage to give both squads a boost this weekend.

“We have blood, sweat, and tears on every inch of this track; we know everything about it,” she said. “We are also really prepared for this weather, we know it won’t be the greatest outside while we are competing, but we train in that every single day, so I think it is a little bit of an advantage.”

Competition will begin today with the multi-events, and the conference champions will be crowned on May 12, when the meet concludes.

“It is an honor anytime you get to host a Big Ten Championship,” Woody said. “Every time we have the opportunity, our administration is all in and makes sure we host the best meets in the country.”

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