4x100-meter relay jam-packed with talent

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Entering the outdoor season, one of the deepest areas for the Iowa men’s track and field team will be a group that spends the least amount of time on the track: the sprinters.

The group returns all four members — D’Juan Richardson, Zeke Sayon, Patrick Richards, and Stephen Bee — of a 4x100 meter team that finished third at last year’s outdoor Big Ten meet. Sayon also finished second in the 100-meter dash at the 2010 outdoor Big Tens.

Add in first-year Hawkeye Justin Austin, who holds the indoor school record in the 60 and 200, a young but talented freshman Tevin-Lee Mincy, and Paul Chaney Jr., who missed all of last year after tearing his ACL during the 2009 football season, and it becomes clear why the group is excited about the upcoming season.

“We’ve never had this strong of a sprint group since I’ve been here, and probably ever,” said sprints coach Joey Woody, who is in his fifth year as a Hawkeye coach. “We have a lot of choices, a lot of options, which is exciting for our program, and it shows we can balance the relay so that we can run a really strong 4x1 and still have guys compete in other events.”

Narrowing down which four will run the relay in each event might not be easy for Woody, but it’s a problem head coach Larry Wieczorek is glad he will have.

“I think Coach Woody’s expectation is that we’re going to win that Big Ten championship and we’re going to the nationals,” Wieczorek said. “With this group, they have the ability to have the high expectations.”

With the depth — and quality of depth — Iowa has, winning at a high level may be more realistic than the past few years. Last year’s 4x1 Big Ten champion, Wisconsin, fielded two seniors who have since graduated, potentially leaving the door open for a new champion this year.

Securing 10 points at this year’s Big Tens wouldn’t be the first time a Black and Gold 4x1 relay took home a first-place finish at a major meet. At the 2009 Drake Relays, Richardson, Sayon, Richards, and Chaney combined to cross the finish line in a first-place 40.71 seconds.

After two-consecutive third-place conference finishes in his first two years at Iowa, Richardson believes this year will be the next step for the 4x1 relay.

“I feel like both years we had a really good shot at winning Big Tens, but things just happened that prevented us from doing that,” he said. “We brought back all the people we had on those two relays, and with Tevin and Justin, it’s just going to make our 4x1 better.”

Richardson said one of those “things” that held the relay back last year was handoffs.

And on Monday — the first day of outdoor practice — Woody had the group practicing exchanges with the baton for a significant amount of time.

“With the 4x1, the challenge is not only do you have fast guys, but do you develop a team cohesiveness?” Wieczorek said. “Do you develop that ability to get the stick around and pass the baton? It’s not just flat-out sprinting — there is some real teamwork and chemistry to it.”

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