Hawkeye Mallett ignores limits

BY CHARLIE GREEN | JUNE 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa track and field standout Aaron Mallett earned both first- and second-team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships June 10-13, and he may just be getting started.

After all, he’s only halfway through his career as a Hawkeye.

“He’s a guy that’s very focused and driven on reaching his goals,” track and field Director Joey Woody said. “He’s had some great performances and has really improved quite a bit since his freshman year.”

“Quite a bit” may be an understatement. As a freshman in 2014, Mallett finished sixth at the Big Ten Championships in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.11.

On June 12, he finished sixth again — only this time at the NCAA Championships.

The performance earned Mallett first-team All-American honors in the event, after he ran a 13.40. It also marked the second time this past season that he set the Iowa record in the race, the first coming when he won the Big Ten title on May 17.

For the monumental leap between his first and second years, Mallett credits adjustments to the physical and mental challenges of becoming a Division-1 athlete.

“For my freshman year, I was kind of learning to lift, learning to train,” Mallett said. “And I think this year it just kind of hit me because I had a year under my belt.”

That’s not to say he didn’t work hard his freshman year — a sixth-place finish in the Big Ten is no small accomplishment. But getting used to a higher level of training and how his body recovers took time, as did a more familiar challenge for most new college students.

“When I came in my freshman year, I was kind of homesick; you know, the stuff that every freshman goes through,” he said.

He was the only Hawkeye to earn first-team accolades at this year’s nationals, but that’s not all he accomplished. Mallett also ran the second leg on the 400-meter relay, with Vinnie Saucer Jr., James Harrington, and Keith Brown, which finished 12th to earn second-team honors.

Junior Brendan Thompson, who ran on 4x1 team often this season, lauded Mallett for his vocal leadership on the relay team. But perhaps even more for his teammates is his approach to the sport day in, day out.

“He comes in with the mindset that he’s going to get better today, no matter if it’s a hard, easy, or medium day, ” Thompson said. “It doesn’t matter, he takes the same mindset that he’s there to get better every single day.”

That has Mallett and the Hawkeyes thinking big about next season; the junior-to-be thinks they have the potential to finish top-five in 2016.

And now, with two seasons under his belt, who knows where he will be by the end of his Iowa career and beyond.

“I think everyone my age wants to be a national champion; it’s a huge goal that I want to take off my bucket list,” Mallett said. “And maybe down the road, being in the Olympics, you never know.”

They are lofty goals, but he’s been on the cusp of reaching the podium at the college level. It’s not unfathomable by any stretch.

“Honestly, the sky’s the limit for him,” Thompson said. “Just seeing this year that he jumped from sixth in the Big Ten to sixth in the country, who knows what another two years of training could do for him.”

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