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4x100 looking for Big Ten success

BY MARIO WILLIAMS | MAY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody has used a combination of six guys on his 4x100-meter relay team during the outdoor season.

Despite the issues including baton exchanges, rhythm, chemistry, and energy it’s clear he’s found the right four athletes to compete at the Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Michigan.

Junior Vinne Saucer, sophomore Aaron Mallett, junior James Harrington, and senior Keith Brown will try to get the squad’s third-consecutive Big Ten title in the event.

“We’re definitely going in with the mindset that we’re playing to win,” Woody said. “We believe we can beat anyone in the conference right now, and we’re excited we’re able to put up our best performance at the last real meet of the year.

“They just got to do their thing.”

That mindset is something Woody has instilled in his athletes all season. He consistently puts emphasis on what he wants his team to be known for — stellar relays.

“Relays are the core unit of your program,” Woody said. “If you have good relays, then you have a good chance of having a good team just because it’s hard to have a good team without good relays.”

The group of sprinters competed together for the first time this season at the squad’s home meet — the 16th-annual Musco Twilight. The quartet shone when it crossed the line in 39.66 to snatch the title.

Despite running that time at Musco — which was faster than the Hawks’ conference second-place time prior to the meet — the Hawkeyes current time is just a 0.1 a second shy of Illinois, 39.56, for the top spot in the Big Ten.

Mallett, who will run the second leg of the relay, noted the runners’ performance at Musco will set them up for much success going into the conference meet.

“We pretty much blew everybody out the water at the home meet,” Mallett said. “Once we get the stick around, we’re a hard team to beat.”

The main struggle this season in the 4x100 relay has been baton exchanges. After running into trouble at the Florida and Drake Relays, adjustments were made quickly. Before they head to East Lansing, Woody and his sprinters will train specifically on exchanges and speed endurance workouts.

“I just want to make sure they feel good with their marks and feel confident,” Woody said.”

A group of four competing in a concise and specific relay such as the 4x100 isn’t always easy.

Chemistry, bonding, and feeling comfortable with receiving the baton from each other is something one athlete believes makes this group special.

“We all look out for each other,” Brown said. “We all hang out with each other outside of track, and I’ve seen that be helpful to our performances on the track.”

While Illinois may have the No. 1 spot in the conference, the team doesn’t want to count out any other Big Ten teams that could show up and succeed. Brown said the teams to beat are the teams that competed at nationals last year, including Nebraska.

Brown has made his intentions sweet and simple for the relay that everyone will look forward to: “I don’t want to sound cocky,” he said. “But I’m pretty confident that we’ll do it again.”

Follow @marioxwilliams on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis on the Iowa track and field teams.


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