Track and field coaches optimistic ahead of Big Ten Championships

The men’s track and field team won the conference title in the spring, while the women finished in third. Both teams are ready for their latest shot at Big Tens.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody coaches from the infield during the 4x400m relay during the Larry Wieczorek Invitational at the University of Iowa Recreation Building on Jan. 18, 2020.

Lucy Liautaud, Sports Reporter

Numerous first-place finishes, career bests, and Iowa leaderboard-shattering marks have the Hawkeye track and field teams poised to compete for a conference title Feb. 28 at the 2020 Big Ten Indoor Championships.

The men’s and women’s coaching staffs are keen on it.

“I feel good about where both of the men’s and women’s programs are, and I think we’re setting ourselves up for a good championship phase of our season,” Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said. “We’re in that mode of getting ready for Big Ten Championships, so just trying to keep everybody healthy and keep progressing, but I feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”

Iowa has only one more meet before traveling to Geneva, Ohio, for the conference championships.

Associate Head Coach Clive Roberts shared Woody’s mindset about where the Hawkeyes are at as a team heading into the championship season.

“I think the regular season has been kind of like most seasons,” Roberts said. “You have your ups, you have your downs. You know, I think things are moving in the right direction as we approach the championship season. We’ve come together as a team, and I think things are looking up.”

Jason Wakenight, Iowa’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, is happy about how different athletes have had opportunities to shine at every meet.

“Slowly but surely, we’ve introduced some new athletes to the lineup, so each week, it seems like there’s another new face out there starting their indoor season,” Wakenight said. “We had kind of an extra week in the indoor season in January, so we’ve had more time to open up some of our lead athletes. So far, everything has been really good. I think we’ve had excellent meets across the board.”

Currently, the men’s team is ranked first in the Midwest Region and No. 20 nationally, while the women are ranked fourth in the Midwest and No. 21 in the country.

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The men’s team won the conference title at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, while the women finished in third place.

This time around, different athletes have taken their performance to the next level and are ready to step up and contribute points for the Hawkeyes.

“I think Tia Saunders has had an unbelievable start to her senior season — she has run PRs in the 400, 600, had a PR in her 4×4 split,” Wakenight said. “And I think Aly Weum has had a wonderful start to her season, as well — she has run a PR at every turn.”

Wakenight also mentioned DeJuan Frye and Austin Leitz as athletes making significant strides in the indoor season.

“DeJuan coming off a redshirt year has done a fantastic job of being a leader and inserting himself back into the lineup and being a major player right from the start,” Wakenight said.

“And then Austin Leitz has been a three-time Big Ten finalist, but he has taken himself to whole different level. He’s a guy that’s thinking about winning medals at the Big Ten meet now, which is something that we talked about in the past, but he has positioned himself really nicely to have a fantastic finish to his indoor season.”

In spite of Iowa’s past successes with the outdoor season, the Hawekeyes are focused on the challenge ahead.

“We’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves, so as much as we want to defend our outdoor title,” Wakenight said. “I think our team indoors has a chance to win its first indoor Big Ten Championship, so I feel like we’re positioning ourselves to, at the very least, compete and be in the mix on both the men’s and women’s sides to compete for an indoor championship.”

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