No more doldrums

BY JORDAN HANSEN | MAY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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Between Drake and this past weekend’s Musco Twilight meet, Iowa may have saved its season.

As recently as two weeks ago, the Hawkeye track coaching staff spoke of how the team was “taking steps forward” and improving week to week.

Reading between the lines, one might have thought this suggested the season had not gone as planned and that the Black and Gold would have better luck next season. Not much was going right for Iowa, and much worse, nothing seemed all that fixable.

The results on the meet sheets read the same week after week.  The throwers and triple-jumpers performed well, while the rest of the Hawks — with a few exceptions — did not perform up to their talent level.

The Hawkeyes looked destined to dwell in the bottom half of the Big Ten, just as they had done during their indoor season just a few months earlier. The results were a far cry from the 2013 season, when Iowa was a top-15 team in the nation and a serious contender for the Big Ten title.

Then came the Drake Relays.

The Hawks did not end up with a bevy of individual champions, but it seemed something just clicked.

It could have been the women’s 4x100-meter relay beating Ohio State by .01 of a second or junior Gabe Hull winning the discus with a few herculean throws, but suddenly, a wave of positivity swept over the team.

The mood around practices following Drake improved tenfold. The comments and attitudes of both coaches and athletes were noticeably different.

No longer was there talk of 2014 being a developmental season. Instead, the team is emerging as a potential dark horse, poised to make some noise come the Big Ten meet in West Lafeyette, Ind.

Even better, the younger athletes — especially sprinters and relays — who had either been underperforming or injured, perked up and started performing with more desire.

It certainly helped that this is the point in the season where the workout program calls for the athletes to peak for the year, but actually seeing the change is impressive.

Musco only served to solidify the Hawkeyes’ good vibes — they won four events and performed well all around. Most importantly, they stood toe-to-toe with arguably the best team in the Big Ten — Nebraska.

While head coach Layne Anderson was quick to say the Hawks still had work to do before Big Tens, the general buzz was that they had actually taken a tangible step forward.

Now, the challenge for the team is to translate that into success at the Big Ten meet, which will not be easy. The Big Ten is one of the premier track conferences in the nation, and Iowa will be hard-pressed to find points outside of the field events.

Even with the relative low probability that they could finish better than fifth, that there is even an inkling of a chance speaks volumes of how important the last two weeks have been.

Three weeks ago, this team finishes a very disappointing ninth — at best — at the conference meet.

Now, it’s vying for a top-five spot. Amazing the difference a week can make.

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