Women's relay blasts into 1st place

BY KATRINA DO | APRIL 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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DES MOINES — Alexis Hernandez passed the baton to Brittany Brown for the final exchange, and silence fell across the Drake Stadium.

The quiet was short-lived; Brown pulled Iowa across the finish line to win by 0.01 of a second, and a surprised crowd erupted in cheers.

“The crowd was what really pumped me up,” Brown said. “They really led me the whole way. I love the whole Drake Relay atmosphere.”

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But the crowd didn’t know how uneasy the runners felt about the race. Around 15 minutes before the race began, the 4x100-meter relay team had to make a major decision.

Freshman Hernandez was put on the squad at the last second to replace sophomore MonTayla Holder, who twisted her leg during the competition on April 25.

Hernandez had never practiced with the 4x100 squad; she had never taken a baton from Elexis Guster nor given it to Brown. Nevertheless, the rearrangement favored the quartet of sophomore Lake Kwaza, freshmen Guster, Hernandez, and Brown when they became Drake Relays champions.

“We kind of just winged it, and it turned out great,” Hernandez said.

But even with that improvisation, the team wasn’t necessarily in the race to win it until the final baton exchange.

“We were holding our breath, hoping the baton would get around,” head coach Layne Anderson said. “Then Brittany Brown ran the straight-away of all straight-aways for any team.”

Brown crossed the finish line with a time of 44.51, breaking a 10-year-old school record. The runners also became the first in Hawkeye history to win a Drake Relays title in the women’s 4x100.
Second-place Ohio State finished almost tied with the Hawkeyes, clocking a time of 44.52.

“I shocked myself — I really shocked myself,” Brown said. “I didn’t know I was going to win. Holder went down, Hernandez went in, we all ran well, and we got the school record.

“I didn’t know if I was going to catch the baton or not, but I did. Then [I thought,] ‘Run, just run.’ ”

Another relay team also made the school record book. Three of the same women — Brown, Kwaza, and Guster — teamed up with freshman Mahnee Watts to finish fourth in the sprint medley relay and set the second fastest time in Hawkeye history. 

The 4x400 relay team did not quite match up with the others. Kwaza, Guster, Hernandez, and Watts finished in last place.

Each event came within about an hour of each other with many of the same women competing.

Brown and Kwaza also competed in the 100 meters. The two placed fourth and fifth.

“We’re all pretty sore and tired. I have to tell myself to laugh a lot so I don’t get too psyched out,” Brown said. “The 100 was not my best today, but the 4x1 was the icing on the cake.”

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