Commentary: Iowa ends year on positive note

BY JORDAN HANSEN | JUNE 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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For much of the track season, the coaching staff of the Iowa track team was hesitant to call this season much more than a year for improvement.

The coaches’ reasoning was sound, too — if a very poor indoor season was any indication, the Hawkeyes had quite a bit of work of to do. They were young, inexperienced, and needed to mature to reach the Big Ten’s competition level.

The Hawks got there faster than anyone could have expected.

The first inklings that this season was something special occurred at the Mount SAC Relays in Walnut, California. Whether it was the sunshine or the California “gurls” that Katy Perry sang about (maybe a combination), the Hawkeyes looked completely different when they returned.

Granted, it was a week before the Drake Relays, and it could have been the ultra-focus that meet brings, but the team members looked as if they were locked in. No longer did it seem that they were just showing up — they were ready to roll.

That’s certainly something you want out of any good team, and it comes with improved maturity.

Evidence of this is especially evident in the relays. The women’s 4x100 relay is made up of all underclassmen, and the men’s 4x100 squad has two. In track and field, athletes usually need time to adjust to both college life as well as the increased level of competition.

Whatever was said, the relays took strong showings at Mount SAC, Drake, and Musco into Big Ten and NCAA competition.

Simply put, the team stopped looking toward next season and began focusing on the present.

This mindset change led to a spectacular-fourth place finish for the women at the Big Ten meet and a solid seventh for the men.

More than anything, solid finishes at Big Tens allowed 28 athletes a chance at the NCAA regional meet and another 12 to qualify for the NCAA meet.

Maybe more than anything, it gave quite a few underclassmen a chance to experience competing at the highest levels of the sport.

Take freshmen Brittany Brown and O’Shea Wilson as well as sophomores James Harrington and Lake Kwaza. All four, assuming they stay healthy, have a chance to have incredible Iowa careers.

Having experience at some of the biggest stages will only help their progression.

With all that being said, I’m fairly confident in saying that Iowa had a successful year, possibly more successful than the coaches could have anticipated.

However, that improvement leads to something very, very dangerous: expectations.

While it would easy be easy to say they should be contenders at the Big Ten meet next season, there still is quite a bit of work to do.

The men’s sprints needs to both replace departed senior Tevin-Cee Mincy and find some more depth. Wilson could very well fill those shoes, but even he needs to continue to improve his 100 and 200 times.

There will also be turnover on the women’s side — they lose one of Iowa’s all-time best jumpers in Zinnia Miller.

No matter what, the entire team will have to prove that this past season was just one more step toward the goal of reclaiming the coveted Big Ten championship.

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