Iowa track and field 2020 seniors set to compete at first Big Ten Invitational this weekend

The Hawkeyes are traveling to Bloomington, Indiana, to participate in the first Big Ten Invitational of the 2021 outdoor season. Seventeen athletes who lost their outdoor season last year will compete for the first time this year.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa multi-event competitor Will Daniels competes in the 4x400m relay during the fourth annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational at the University of Iowa Recreation Building on Saturday, Jan 18, 2020.

Lauren Swanson, Sports Reporter

Iowa track and field will be traveling to the Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex in Bloomington, Indiana, Friday and Saturday to compete in the first Big Ten Invitational of the 2020-21 outdoor season.

This weekend, 17 Hawkeye seniors will compete for the first time in 2020-21.

The 2019-20 season was supposed to the group of 17’s last at Iowa, but COVID-19 forced the Big Ten and NCAA to cancel their outdoor track and field seasons. The NCAA then granted its spring sport athletes an additional year of eligibility.

For track and field, things became complicated because the indoor season is held during the winter, and 2019-20 winter sports athletes did not get an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA. In the case of track and field, only one indoor event was canceled — the 2020 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

Track and field athletes don’t just compete in the winter, however. So, the NCAA did not grant its track and field athletes an additional full year of eligibility. Rather, the NCAA elected to give track and field athletes an additional year of spring, outdoor eligibility only — withholding 2019-20 seniors from competing during the indoor, winter season in 2021.

The group of 17 2019-20 seniors that Iowa will have competing this weekend includes a national champion and four school-record holders.

Among the Hawkeye women returning are Tia Saunders, Laulauga Tausaga, Jenny Kimbro, Courtney Strohman, Karina Joyner, Erin Dowd, Allison Wahrman, and Serena Brown.

Will Daniels, Tysen VanDraska, DeJuan Frye, Ray Clarke, Austin Lietz, Dan Soto, Nathan Mylenek, Jaylan McConico, and Antonio Woodard will make their debuts for the Hawkeye men this weekend.

Daniels last competed for the Hawkeyes at the 2020 Big Ten Indoor Championships, where he finished second in the heptathlon with 5,689 points. Daniels’ score was a school record at the time, but it has since been passed by his teammate Peyton Haack.

Now, Daniels is ready to compete in the Black and Gold once again.

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“Right away, I couldn’t really believe that [the NCAA] would make a decision that far out,” Daniels said. “I think that’s what a lot of the athletes were thinking at the time. There’s a lot of concerns with what would happen with pandemics in general So, I was kind of surprised about the athletic side of that, and also concerned about how the country would kind of handle the health implications of the pandemic.”

During the extended offseason — that unofficially began last March — Daniels has been perfecting his craft.

“More recently, we have been focusing a lot more on technique, and really high intensity training,” Daniels said. “A lot of max speed work on speed and endurance, rather than longer, slower tempo workouts like we were doing last year at home during the midst of the pandemic. As we progress through the season, we tend to focus more on that type of stuff. With the outdoor season, we do a lot more technique work so we can start sharpening up hurdling, pole vaulting, and all the different techniques that we have to work on.”

Daniels transferred to the University of Iowa from Central College in Pella, Iowa. At Central, Daniels was a national champion heptathlete.

While he has only been a Hawkeye for a little more than two years, Daniels has grown fond of the Hawkeye track and field program and is thankful for all it has done for him.

“My advice to younger athletes would just be to enjoy every practice and every opportunity you get to compete in the sport you love,” Daniels said. “A lot of athletes last year showed with COVID-19 that these things can be taken away pretty quickly when we’re not expecting it, so just enjoy the experiences and focus on being a great teammate, while also focusing on being a great competitor. Trust your coaches and just have fun.”

Big Ten Invitational action will begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday with the women’s pole vault and wraps up Saturday at 1:30 p.m. with the men’s triple jump.