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Iowa track and field heads to historic Drake Relays


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The Iowa track and field team will take its place on the biggest stage in the state today and through the weekend at the 101st running of the Drake Relays.

A few festivities started on Wednesday, with Dan Rolling participating in the decathlon. The senior holds the overall lead at 3,896 points, and if he continues to score at such a pace, he could hit the 7,000-point plateau and break the school record in the event.

But with the main chunk of competition beginning today, the Hawkeyes will look to defend their 2009 crown in the 400-meter relay Friday morning. Sophomore D’Juan Richardson, who runs the first leg of the event, said he feels confident about the quartet’s chances of retaining the title even without Paul Chaney Jr.

“I think we have a really good chance at repeating,” he said. “We have four really strong legs this year.”

Chaney, who suffered a torn ACL in October on the football field, ran the anchor in the event; he has been replaced by junior Stephen Bee.

Another blow the Hawkeyes will try to overcome is in the 110-meter hurdles; freshman Jordan Mullen will take a seat after injuring his quad in last weekend’s home meet. Mullen hasn’t run at Drake at the collegiate level, but he owns the prep record at the meet — something that certainly would have helped the Hawkeyes garner a few extra points.

“Even though we maybe have a couple guys injured, I think we have an opportunity to put a very formidable team on the field,” men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

Wieczorek said regardless of the shape the Hawkeyes are in, they will have a great crowd behind them.

“It’s a meet of national significance in the state of Iowa,” he said. “It’s the Hawkeye State, and people want to cheer for the Hawkeyes.”

Women’s head coach Layne Anderson could not agree more.

Because it is both a high-school and collegiate level meet, Anderson said it is a chance to leave possible recruits with a “favorable impression” of Iowa’s program. He is confident his women will do so this weekend.

The coaching staff loaded the relay groups with top athletes, who will most likely run at the most important meet — the Big Ten championship — later this season.

The women said they consider the opportunity to compete at the Drake Relays an honor, something especially true for freshman Raven Moore — one of three freshmen in the meet. She will run the 4-by-100-meter relay and the sprint medley relay. She doesn’t have much experience with either race, she said, but she is trying to stay confident going into the weekend.

“I’m excited right now,” Moore said. “But I know once I hit the line, those nerves are going to start hitting me.”

Junior Lauren Hardesty, who will compete on the distance side of the meet, said the Drake Relays are really her only chance to compete in relays. For distance runners, most of the races in traditional meets are individual. But she said the relays are a “good change of pace” for her and her fellow runners.

She will compete in the 4-by-mile and 4-by-800 relays — two events she said Iowa has done particularly well in at past Drake Relays.

Hardesty noted that the atmosphere of the meet fuels the Hawkeyes’ excitement.

“Not very often do you get to go to a track meet where there’s a huge stadium full of people just to watch track and field,” she said. “It’s a different atmosphere with a lot more energy.”

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