Iowa track rides strong senior class to succeed in 2013

BY MATT CABEL | JUNE 11, 2013 5:00 AM

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The hurdles are stacked together and sit in a dark garage adjacent to the Cretzmeyer Track. Bright neon spikes are left untied.

The outdoor track and field season is over for the Iowa track and field program.

While the Hawkeyes weren’t team champions at the national, Drake Relays, or Big Ten competitions, numerous athletes earned individual conference titles and All-American status that made the season a success for the Black and Gold.

The season opened in record-breaking fashion. The 4x100 relay team — junior Tevin-Cee Mincy and seniors Justin Austin, Ethan Holmes, and Josh Larney — broke the school record with a time of 39.35 seconds at Jim Click Shootout in Tucson, Ariz. That effort toppled a school mark that had stood since 1984.

The same crew broke the record again with a time of 39.31 seconds in the preliminary rounds of the NCAA meet.

“One way to put it: We were the best non-SEC team in the 4x100,” assistant coach Joey Woody said about the championship race.

Austin lived up to high individual expectations — and defeated doubt after struggling with injuries in 2012 — by earning Big Ten titles in the 100- and 200-meters and the 4x100-meter relay.

“Coming into the season, my confidence wasn’t very high,” Austin said. “I had not as good of a year [in 2012] after having a really good year [in 2011]. Runners do that, and they just fall off.”

But that wasn’t the case for Austin, who said he realizes now even more that the sky is the limit for his talent. The two-time Big Ten champion also earned first team All-American status by qualifying for— and placing sixth in — the 200-meter final at the NCAA meet.

Holmes strained his Achilles tendon the week before Iowa competed in the Musco Twilight XIV meet in Iowa City. But it didn’t sideline him for long. The Clinton, Iowa, native returned for the Drake Relays and ran a time of 13.97 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles. Holmes remained healthy for the rest of the season after he left Des Moines without an individual title.

His flagless trip to Drake left Holmes hungry, and it showed in Columbus, Ohio on May 12 when he took home two conference titles in the 4x100 meter relay and the 400-meter hurdles. He won the latter event with a time of 50.78 seconds.

“It’s bittersweet,” Woody said about losing a senior class that included such standouts as Austin, Holmes, Mullen and javelin thrower Matt Byers, who all helped the team earn the Big Ten championship in 2011. “We’re losing a great senior class — some of the best athletes in program history will be graduating. We’ll miss those guys tremendously.”

It was a different story for the women’s side of the program. Senior Majesty Tutson was the only member of the women’s squad to earn an All-American honor at the NCAA meet in Eugene, Ore., last weekend — she placed 22nd in the discus event. But coach Layne Anderson was still pleased with his team’s accomplishments and believes he has a lot of talent left for next season.

Rising sophomore sprinter Lake Kwaza earned a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten meet in the 100 meters, clocking a time of 11.56 seconds, a personal best. Khanishah Williams will return as a high jumper next season after finishing third at the Big Ten indoor meet and eighth in the outdoor.

“We didn’t have a number of our key athletes,” Anderson said. “… I think we were missing some key individuals [because of injury] who could have been very successful had they been out there and competing, doing what they had shown the ability to do, which would have given others confidence.”

Anderson is also preparing for the “next generation” of runners who will compete in the fall semester. Both he and Woody believe the incoming class has the potential to make immediate impacts for the team.

“They’re going to get a wake-up call,” Woody said. “The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the country based on season performances. But we believe that we have athletes that can come in right away and score in the Big Ten championship.”

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