Iowa needs to stay on track after Drake Relays

BY AMY TIFFANY | MAY 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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DES MOINES — The Iowa track and field team will always focus on putting out a solid 4x400 relay team to close out a meet.

But in the final of the 4x400 meter relay at the 102nd Drake Relays, it looked as if Iowa was moving in slow motion compared with the first-place finisher Arkansas. But the Hawkeyes made some significant progress in the event, finishing fourth.

And maybe it was because on April 29, Iowa blew out the other teams in its preliminary heat.
So when the Hawkeyes weren't winning the race, it seemed odd and out of place — as though they were running slower than they actually were.

But the 4x400 relay team from Arkansas has the second- and third-fastest relay times in the country. On April 30, the Razorbacks dominated the opposition with their time of 3:28.63, a Drake Relay record. The previous mark was 3:31.00, set in 1987 by Alabama.

The Razorbacks were uncatchable.

"They're crazy," Iowa junior Nicole Erickson said.

The Hawkeyes may have looked slow compared with Arkansas, but Iowa's time this weekend, 3:35.93, is an outdoor school record and the 20th-fastest time in the country — first in the Big Ten.

The previous record was 3:36.26, set in 2003.

After the preliminary race, which the Hawkeyes ran in 3:37.83, senior captain Tiffany Hendricks said the Iowa relay runners wanted to knock some seconds off their time. They shaved off 1.90 seconds, enough to set a school record.

Head coach Layne Anderson said the relay closed the meet out well.

To continue their momentum, the Hawkeyes must take first in the 4x400 at the outdoor Big Ten championships, which Iowa will host on May 13-15.

So while Iowa's time was fast enough for a school record — and better than Illinois, who holds the 23rd-fastest time in the country — it wasn't fast enough to win the Drake title.

"Illinois was in there [the final]," Erickson said. "[The Illini] have been close with us all outdoor, so to beat them was pretty good. And we obviously want to win Big Tens, so to get that time down was looking better."

Iowa won the sprint medley relay for the first time in the 22 times the Hawkeyes have competed in the event at the Relays.

Hendricks, senior Bethany Praska, and freshmen Erin Jones and Ashley Liverpool had never ran the event together. Breaking the school record of 3:56.42, recorded in 1995, the Hawkeyes ran the medley relay in 3:48.63.

"I think it's representing that Iowa shouldn't be underestimated," Praska said. "… And we're just putting together a lot of strong individual talent. We're just that much better."

The Hawkeyes had other positive finishes throughout the weekend, small sparks in a variety of events, but other than that, they seemed a little overwhelmed. Anderson said he can't be critical because the team is maximizing its potential.

"Everybody wants to be a little faster, everybody wants to throw a little farther, jump a little higher," he said. "I think this group is doing an outstanding job of competing at their best."

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