Mullen, Holmes Back on the Block
Jan. 18, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Big Ten graduated its 60-meter hurdles champion from a year ago, and the Hawkeyes have a pair of runners ready to claim the throne.
That may sound like a long shot considering Iowa was shutout of the event last season, scoring no points en route to a disappointing finish at the conference championships. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, time heals all wounds.
"I feel a lot better this year," said Mullen, Iowa's 60-meter school record holder. "A week before Thanksgiving I tweaked my hamstring a little bit, so I took a little break and came back feeling like a million bucks. I opened up faster than last year so I'm really excited about this year."
Mullen opened his senior campaign with a time of 7.86 to grab the title at the Iowa Open. The season is young, but that mark currently leads the Big Ten. Holmes finished second at the Iowa Open in 8.00, a time that ranks fourth in program history and fifth best in the conference.
Those marks will be tested Saturday at the adidas Classic in Lincoln, Neb. The Huskers have a pair of runners in the field capable of stealing points at the conference championships. Miles Ukaoma finished sixth at the Big Ten meet last season, and freshman Oladapo Akinmoladun is a former Missouri prep regarded by some as the nation's top high school hurdler.
"If nothing else this weekend will show us where they're at," said Holmes. "We know where we're at. We've been training hard, and I don't think anyone can look at our time last weekend and think that's even close to what we're capable of doing."
Finishing 1-2 in the Iowa Open looks good on paper, but the bigger victory was the fact that both athletes were back on the track.
Mullen and Holmes entered last season with great expectations following All-America campaigns in 2011, but Mullen pulled a hamstring at last year's adidas Classic and was forced to miss the remainder of the indoor season. Holmes spent the indoor season battling an injury that limited him to exclusively sprint competitions.
Their absence from the 60-meter hurdles is a big reason why Iowa was shutout of the event.
"This year is a totally different year," said Holmes. "I'm stronger than I've ever been and in my mind I'm faster than I've ever been.
"We have hurdlers that are capable of scoring points, and it doesn't really matter how we do it, as long as we're at the top and bringing points to the team."
Now in their final season, both athletes are also benefitting from once again being able to contend against each other.
"It's a benefit to be able to train with other great hurdlers," said Mullen. "We do it every day and this weekend will be another test and a great race. The Big Ten is a tough conference."
The adidas Classic begins at 12 p.m. (CT) at the Devaney Center on the Nebraska campus. The 60-meter hurdles preliminary race begins at 1:10 p.m., and the finals start at 3:07 p.m. Live results can be found at Huskers.com.