Iowa track and field’s Austin West breaks program heptathlon record

After breaking Iowa track and field’s heptathlon record, West is looking to become a first-team All-American in 2021-22.


Grace Smith

Iowa’s Austin West competes in the 60-meter hurdles during the 2022 Hawkeye Invitational track and field meet at the University of Iowa Recreation Building on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. West completed the race with a time of 8.20 seconds. The Hawkeye Invitational hosted Arkansas State, Bradley, Hawkeye Community College, Indian Hills Community College, Iowa Central Community College, Loyola-Chicago, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, UW-Milwaukee, and Western Illinois.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

Iowa track and field sophomore Austin West knew he had room for improvement after his 13th-place finish at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships.

“I only did one full heptathlon last year,” West said. “And my performance was a little underwhelming.”

Recently, West has found more of the potential that his coaches knew that he had.

At the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 29, West broke teammate Peyton Haack’s indoor heptathlon school record with 5,832 points. He broke the record during the Hawkeye multi-athletes’ first meet of the season.

According to the Track & Field Results Reporting System, the mark currently stands in fourth place nationwide and leads the Big Ten.

The heptathlon consists of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw, and 800-meter run. West said his consistency across all seven events is what helped him break the program record.

“I didn’t set many PRs at Arkansas, but I performed pretty well in every single event, which is something I’ve gotten better at,” he said. “I’ve really improved my ability to link events together when I’m competing indoors.”

Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said West’s health has been key to his improvements this season, and contributed to his record-breaking performance.

“He’s been able to stay healthy, which has really helped him progress his training,” Woody said. “He’s made some great improvements in the high jump and pole vault, and he’s gaining consistency in the long jump. Jumping events were an area where Austin struggled a little bit at times last year, so seeing those improvements has been inspiring.”

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Woody also said West’s improved self-awareness is more significant than his physical improvements.

“Austin better understands how to conserve his energy to maximize his performance in each event,” Woody said. “He’s gained more self-confidence, which has been huge for his development. He’s just maturing and understanding how to win in this event.

“One of his big goals is to be first-team All-American,” Woody added. “He was second-team last year because he had an injury that kept him out of the top eight finishers at last year’s indoor championship. This year, he really wants to score at the NCAA meet to help our team finish in the top five in the country.”

Athletes have to place in the top eight of their event to earn first-team All-America status.

West has a strong competitor in practice, as he trains beside Haack every day. Haack finished in 12th place at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships — one spot higher than West.

Haack set the Hawkeyes’ previous record of 5,749 points at the 2021 Big Ten Indoor Championships as he became Iowa’s first conference champion in the heptathlon.

“After spending a few years together, we’ve really taken more responsibility upon ourselves to help one another,” West said. “We use each other as training partners, pushing one another to new heights and providing support when that’s necessary.”

Both West and Haack attribute their development in the heptathlon this season to one another, as the duo help each other to improve in weaker events.

“Austin and I have very different strengths in this event,” Haack said. “I’m a little bit better at the jumping events, which is what Austin has been working on improving since last season. Austin is better at speed and endurance, so we collaborate and work on little technical things to help each other get better.”

Woody said West and Haack will be neck-and-neck in the heptathlon for the foreseeable future.

“They’re very competitive,” Woody said. “So, they’re constantly pushing one another, just by sheer will, to be better.”