Hawkeyes keep their eyes on the relays

BY AMY TIFFANY | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Hawkeyes' 4x1,600 relay wants a Drake Relays title.

Really badly.

Iowa has been runner up in the relay for the past two years. Last year, it was a border battle against Minnesota, and in the last 200 meters, the Hawkeyes were outrun by the Golden Gophers.

Head coach Layne Anderson said taking second for the past two years has really "fueled their fire" to win this year.

Today through Saturday, Iowa will compete at the 102nd Drake Relays in Des Moines. The 4x1,600 is only one of the many relays that's unique to the historic event. In addition to the 4x1,600, the Hawkeyes are focusing on a couple other relays.

To compete, individuals and relays have to hit a qualifying time or distance, depending on the event. Iowa is taking its strongest athletes to the relays and has the potential to win the 4x1,600 — something the squad has never done before. It has had individual champions, but never a relay.

This year, Iowa is the favorite in the 4x1,600.

"The last couple years we've gone there and we felt like we're going to be fairly competitive in this or we've got a shot in that, but I think this year we're excited about the fact that we have a relay, but more than a relay — two or three relays," Anderson said. "We've got individuals, we've got opportunities on each day to sort of put the Hawkeyes in the headlines.

"If you said what's the goal this weekend, [it would be] Hawkeyes in the headlines."

The other two competitive relays and focal points for the Hawkeyes are the 4x400 and sprint medley. The sprint medley, also unique to the Drake Relays, includes two legs of 200 meters, run by freshman Erin Jones and senior captain Tiffany Hendricks, a 400-meter leg, run by freshman Ashley Liverpool, and an 800-meter leg, run by senior Bethany Praska.

"We tailor our schedule [at the Drake Relays] to enable us to run more relays," Hendricks said. "Just because it's a good time to get out and make a showing for Iowa."

Praska called the meet more fun than pressure-filled because the focus is not on individual performances — although there are some big individual events Iowa is looking forward to — the biggest races are the relays themselves.

"It's our last chance to run before Big Tens, and it's kind of nice because there's not as much individual pressure to go out and compete," Praska said. "Rather, you still get that race in and get a good time on whatever leg you're running, but at the same time you're stepping on the track with your teammates."

The Hawkeyes will have athletes compete individually in the shot put, hammer throw, discus, long jump, as well as events on the track — the 1,500 meters, 400-meter hurdles, and 3,000-meter steeplechase — which they are excited to have strong competitors in.

But relays show off the team and show up on the prominent Drake Relays stage. Plus, it's the last big meet for Iowa before it hosts the Big Ten championships on May 13-15.

"We're going to focus on a couple of events and really try to make a splash there," Anderson said. "And not over work people and try to get them ready to run faster at Big Tens, regionals, and nationals."

The Drake Relays is a big meet for all levels, high school and college. Anderson said it's a meet he looks to because of the magnitude of the meet in the state, and because the Hawkeyes don't want to be shown up on their home turf.

"We kind of like to think it's Drake's stadium," Hendricks said. "But it's our state."

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

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