Men's track heads to Drake Relays

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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There's a digital board outside the Iowa men's track and field locker room that has been displaying a picture of Drake Stadium and the words, "Are you ready?"

Everyone will soon find out.

The Hawkeyes will compete in the 102nd Drake Relays this weekend at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The Relays are set to start at 4 p.m. today with the university and college division women's unseeded 800 meters. The first scheduled event for the Iowa men is the 4x100-meter relay, set to start at 9:48 a.m. on Friday.

In all, the Hawkeyes will compete in 18 events — six relays and 12 individual events.

The last time Iowa athletes won a Drake Relays championship was with the 4x100-meter relay in 2009. This year, both head coach Larry Wieczorek and relays coach Joey Woody feel all six relays have the talent to place in the top three.

"I definitely think the 4x800 and the sprint medley are two big ones for us," Woody said. "And then in the 4x4, we're going after it. Obviously, Baylor is the No. 1 team, as far as sprints, coming to the Drake Relays, but we're not afraid."

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The Hawkeyes will run against Baylor's sprinters in the preliminaries of the 4x100-meter relay. The Bears hold the country's fifth-best time and the best time of any school running at Drake in the event.

Iowa could also see Baylor in the 4x400-meter relay if both schools make the final, which seems likely. Baylor's season-best 4x400-meter relay time of 3:01.77 is also the fastest entry at Drake and the country's second-fastest.

The 110- and 400-meter hurdles have been strong events for Iowa all year, and they should continue to be in Des Moines. Jordan Mullen is entered in the 110 hurdles, and D'Juan Richardson will run the 400 hurdles. Ethan Holmes is scheduled to run both events.

"The Drake Relays is a really good opportunity for us to show up and show off what we have," Holmes said. "A lot of Big Ten schools will be there, and a lot of schools we're going to see in the regional meet are going to be there. So right behind Big Tens and the first round of NCAAs, Drake Relays is one of the biggest meets on our schedule."

Both Mullen and Holmes won hurdle events at Drake as high-school athletes. Mullen broke the 110 hurdles Drake Relays high-school record in the process with a time of 14.04.

After missing last year's Relays because of a quadriceps injury, he's anxious to get back to Drake.

"I'm just trying to contain all my excitement for the weekend," said Mullen, who is from Atlantic, Iowa. "Being there is going to bring back a lot of good memories."

Junior Nick Brayton also was a Drake Relays champion in high school in the discus. Achieving championship form this weekend is something throws coach Scott Cappos hopes he, along with fellow juniors Ryan Lamparek and Matt Banse, can do at Drake.

The throws group has underperformed as a whole so far during the outdoor season. Wieczorek said he'll pay particular attention to this group more than others because improvement is needed with two weeks to go before the Big Ten championships.

Brayton and Lamparek will compete in the discus at Drake, and Banse and Ben Stancombe will throw the hammer. Banse and Lamparek are also entered in the shot put.

"During the competition, it's about getting out there and competing hard," Cappos said. "That's one of the things I want those guys to do is compete hard. No more excuses, no more saying, 'My technique was this, my technique was that.' It's about executing the best we can and getting out there competing and getting results."

Log on to dailyiowan.com Friday and Saturday for full coverage of the Hawkeyes at the 2011 Drake Relays.

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