By DARREN MILLER
EUGENE, Pray. – Jaylan McConico finished his obstacle course at the University of Iowa with a bang. His junior teammate, Jamal Britt, saved his best career for when it mattered most.
Together, the Hawkeyes scored 13 points by finishing runner-up (McConico) and fourth (Britt) in the 110-meter hurdles final on Friday at the NCAA Championship at Hayward Field.
"You can never complain when you have two guys in the final and those guys scoring big team points was awesome," said Joey Woody, Iowa's director of track and field.
Woody knows about awesome hurdle racing. Twenty-four years ago, he won an NCAA championship at 400 hurdles. On Friday, he watched as a proud daddy as two of his prodigies helped the Hawkeyes achieve their best national team finish in more than five decades.
Iowa ranked 12th in 2021 with 19 points; the Hawkeyes were seventh in 1967 with 22 points. Obstacle duo production provided the biggest boost on Friday.
McConico took the lead through seven hurdles, then Woody thought he cut obstacle No. 8.
"When he hit that obstacle, he lost his balance," Woody said. "He recovered well."
"You can never complain when you have two guys in the final and those guys scoring great team points was impressive." Joey Woody, director of track and field, University of Iowa
McConico's time of 13.38 seconds was 0.15 seconds from his school record of 13.23.
“It was great to come out and support the team for the last time,” said McConico, who transferred from the state of Illinois in 2019. “The race felt good and I went well. It's a bit blurry and I'm still processing everything. It was a good race and I was happy to finish second. ”
Alabama's Robert Dunning took the gold at 13.25. Between McConico and Britt was Arkansas's Phillip Lemonious, who ran 13.39. Britt clocked 13.45, the third fastest in school history. He had previously raced a 13.45 with the help of wind.
“It was a solid day, I felt better than I did the entire season,” said Britt, who was runner-up in the 60 hurdles at the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships. “I'm happy with fourth place, these guys are good. here and everyone is trying to run fast to win and compete. "
Also a 400 hurdler, Britt spent the season searching for a rhythm in both events. He came very close to finding it on Friday.
"He's been fighting back and forth between the 400 hurdles pace and the high hurdles pace and that's a tough thing to do," Woody said. “That was the best I've seen him look like in warm-ups. Things started to click and I thought he was ready to go if he just focused on himself and had a tremendous career. ”
Iowa was the only school with two finalists in the 110 hurdles. After the semifinals, McConico took to social media and asked if that fact, coupled with past success, made Iowa "Hurdle University." McConico and Britt's performances on Friday served as validation.
Now McConico and Britt turn their attention to the Olympic Trials that open on June 25 for 110 hurdles.
"Now I'll prepare for the next race," McConico said.
"I still have to clean things up, but I'm ready to go into testing," said Britt.
"It's going to be a battle with those same guys and all the pros," Woody said. "My goal is to get three of those guys (including former Hawkeye Aaron Mallett) into the final of the Olympic Trials."
After crossing the finish line on Friday and looking at their official times and putting them on a higher scoreboard, Britt and McConico hugged each other and continued walking down the track.
"It talks about our program and the work we do every day," McConico said. "To be able to go out and finally see it flourish in the nationals."
They understand that there will be more head-to-head battles on bigger stages. And no matter what happens in the future, McConico and Britt also realize how far they advanced Hurdle U's reputation.