Iowa track’s Joey and Drake Woody confident heading into 2020-21 season after spring cancellations

The director of the Iowa track and field program and his son, a freshman recruit, offer dual perspectives on the lost outdoor season – and how the 2020-21 season will be better than ever for the Hawkeyes.


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

Every May, college and high school track teams across the country are usually in the thick of the outdoor season and preparing for a conference meet. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening this year.

“It’s disappointing for all the seniors,” Iowa director of track and field Joey Woody said. “And for all the high school seniors that missed their final season of high school sports in the spring.”

With the season’s sudden end, both college and high school track programs felt the blow.

Since the NCAA granted all spring-sport athletes another year of eligibility, Joey Woody is optimistic about what that extra year means for his athletes who plan on returning. However, high school track athletes won’t get those months of competition back.

“It’s tough because they put so much hard work and dedication into the sport that they love,” Joey Woody said. “A lot of these kids, this is their last year, and then they’re done with sports altogether. I’m really feeling for the seniors and what they missed out on.”

The Woody family knows firsthand the feeling of losing out on the high school track season. Joey’s son Drake, a senior at Liberty High School, did not get a change to finish his high school track career. Drake’s ultimate goal for his last high school season was to become a state champion, as well as a Drake Relays champion.

“For me, it’s really disappointing because your senior year is what you’re looking forward to the most in high school,” Drake Woody said. “So not being able to compete like at state or at the Drake Relays for track was tough.”

Drake Woody committed to continuing his track career at Iowa in January.

Even though the NCAA afforded college spring-sport athletes an additional season of eligibility, that’s doesn’t mean they haven’t had difficult decisions to weigh. Joey Woody said the university accommodated scholarship extensions for Iowa track and field athletes through next year, but not everyone is on a full ride.

“We still have some seniors trying to decide if it’s going to work for them financially, so they have to decide if they’re willing to pay out of pocket for another year to come back,” Joey Woody said.

Iowa’s seniors also have to readjust their post-graduate plans.

“To compete next year, they have to find another degree or start their masters program if they haven’t already decided to do that, so there’s a lot of things that they are sacrificing to come back for another year,” Joey Woody said. “But they see the opportunity to compete to win a Big Ten Championship, and they see the opportunity to really finish what they started. There’s unfinished business — that might be our hashtag next year.”

Iowa track had a record-breaking indoor season, with individuals on both the men’s and women’s teams having been poised to make the top ten at the NCAA Indoor Championships before its cancellation. On May 12, sophomore sprinter Wayne Lawrence won Big Ten Men’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, and senior thrower Laulauga Tausaga won Big Ten Women’s Indoor Field Athlete of the Year.

Regarding what is ahead, Woody said the Iowa track program is gearing up for a strong 2020-21 season with a solid mix of seasoned athletes, recruits, and transfers.

“I feel really confident in how our program is going to look and who’s coming back,” Joey Woody said. “I think the hope has been reignited because, not only do we have most of our contributing seniors coming back, but then we’ve got some impactful transfers and freshmen coming in. We feel like our team is going to be even better next year.”

As a recruit ready to make an impact, Drake Woody said he’s looking forward to competing for Iowa.

“I’ve always wanted to be a Hawkeye ever since my dad got a job here,” Drake said. “And just growing up near Iowa City and going to a lot of track meets, that made me choose Iowa. I’m excited for next year.”

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