May 28, 2014
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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- In May and June, in the sport of collegiate track and field, the No. 1 objective is getting to the start line.
Those months mark the anticipated postseason, where, if wearing a uniform when the gun goes off, you have at least a fighter's chance of continuing the season. For the University of Iowa, 14 women, 10 men, and three relays have that chance, beginning Thursday with the first round of the NCAA West Preliminary in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
"We're excited, not only about the number of student-athletes we have qualified, but the direction they are headed in their careers," UI head track and field coach Layne Anderson said. "We use terms like trending upward in athletics and I feel like this group is trending upward or peaking at the right time."
While the Hawkeye women qualified 17 events for the NCAA Preliminary Round, the Hawkeye men have three of the program's top performances, paced by the 4x100-meter relay seeded third with a qualifying time of 39.35 seconds. Junior Babatunde Amosu is fourth in triple jump (52 feet, 4 ¾ inches), and junior Gabe Hull is fifth in discus (207-1).
Getting it done on the track and in the field reflects the comprehensive, across-the-board production the Hawkeyes used two weeks ago at the Big Ten Championships. The women shared fourth place with Michigan, scoring 86 points and crowning champions in the 4x100 relay, sophomore Khanishah Williams in high jump, and freshman Alexis Guster in the 400 dash. The men placed seventh with 66 points, winning the 4x100 relay.
"If you look at the track & field teams on both sides, you saw successes across all event areas," Anderson said. "Gabe Hull stands out. You throw the discus (207) feet, that moves you to the top of the food chain, and if he continues to throw like that, he will be a player at the national level."
There is plenty more power for Hawkeye fans to keep an eye on Thursday through Saturday in Arkansas, where the top 12 placewinners in each event advance to the NCAA Finals from June 11-14 in Eugene, Oregon.
"(Freshman) Brittany Brown in the 200 running 23.4, that (women's) 4x1 running 44.5, (senior) Zinnia Miller in the triple jump has taken a huge step and this is the first year she has ever competed in that event," Anderson said. "Kevin Spejcher jumping 7-2 at the Musco meet; if you jump 7-2 at the first round of the nationals I have to believe you're moving on. The men running 39.35 in the 4x1, that has a real shot to go on to the national championships. Alexis Guster, (sophomore) MonTayla Holder (in the 400 hurdles)."
Those are the top performances, but don't count out freshman three-time individual qualifier O'Shea Wilson, who is seeded 47th in the 200 and 46th in the 100. Or freshman 800-meter runner Katharina Trost, who is seeded 47th. Or senior Jasmine Simpson, who is 46th in hammer throw. They, too, have advanced to the start line and throw cage at nationals. They, too, have a chance for Eugene.
"If they get into the meet and get a spot on the starting line, then they have the potential to take another step forward and add something to the team," Anderson said.
The Hawkeye track & field program is center stage this week as the only UI athletic team in action.
"It is rewarding to our student-athletes, the spotlight goes on them as far as the NCAAs," Anderson said. "It's never bad being the only show in town. We appreciate the opportunity and we're excited about the upcoming weeks and what this young group has the potential to do."
A young group indeed.
Of the 24 individual Hawkeyes advancing to the NCAA Preliminary Round, six are sophomores and five are freshmen.
"Hopefully it validates their ability. Sometimes in our sport it's amazing to see the transformation that occurs when someone qualifies for a national championship," Anderson said. "They come the next year, the expectation in their mind is different, the intensity is different, the drive and desire is different. This is a springboard for many of our student-athletes who are going for a first time. We have some individuals who are in their third year with our program and are qualifying for the first time. Hopefully that serves as a shining example to the younger ones coming up that if you continue to work, stick with it, and have a desire and passion for it, then perhaps the journey can end in a similar spot."
Hull and Delaunay both moved on from the preliminary round last season and participated in the NCAA Finals. Delaunay was eighth in triple jump (first team All-America) and Hull was 15th in discus (second team). Tevin-Cee Mincy was a member of the 4x100 relay team that earned first-team All-America honors.
Click HERE to watch a video interview with Anderson prior to the NCAA West Preliminary.