IOWA CITY — It’s an absolutely perfect day at Cretzmeyer track and Iowa sprinter Brittany Brown is casually leaning against a railing, fielding questions as practice begins around her.
Watching her teammates start drills, it’s obvious that’s where her mind is. But then, the conversation switches to last season and her eyes narrow, as if she’s recalling a particularly painful memory.
But then she laughs. Not an “oh, that was funny” type laugh, but almost one out of a place of relief. Hip issues kept her out most of the 2016 indoor season and then she pulled her hamstring in Florida during the spring.
Season? Gone. And for someone who Iowa head coach Joey Woody casually mentions could go down as one of the best in school history, not being able to travel with the team goes beyond simple frustration. But there’s something else in her answer as well. Without being asked if there were any positives to her missing time, she starts to rattle some off.
“It was humbling and you start to see things differently, being out for a year,” Brown said. “I saw what I could fix, things I could work on.
“Not everything that is bad is always bad.”
This season has been a revenge tour. Brown won the indoor Big Ten championship in the 200 meters — her best event — before finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships. Her 200 time of 22.69 is 10th in the nation, which came as she finished fourth at the Mt. Sac Relays, one of the premier events in college track that mixes Olympians into the field as well.
A mainstay on the 400-meter relay team as well, she helped pick up wins at the Drake Relays in late April, which was her second title in that event. You have to go back to 2014 for the first — also in the 400 relay — during her freshman year, when she plainly put herself on the map.
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She broke a 31-year-old record in the indoor 60-meter sprint in her first race in the Black and Gold and was the first Hawkeye to run a sub-23 second 200-meter run.
“She’s one of the best athletes we’ve ever had here, in any sport,” Woody said. “If she’s on the starting line healthy, she’s going to be tough to beat.”
Speaking of coaching, a boon to the program — and Brown, really — this season has been former sprinter Lake Kwaza coming on staff as a volunteer assistant. She was on the same Drake winning 400-meter relay team with Brown in 2014 and the duo became a dynamic one-two punch in a number of events.
They remain close friends and Brown said they talk constantly. She’s become another resource for the sprinter to access, one that she is thankful for.
“Coming in, it was different, I didn’t really have anyone to train with in high school and now all of the sudden I did,” Brown said. “It’s comforting to know she’s there, that I can text her about anything.”
As Brown’s junior season comes to a close (she was successfully able to get a medical redshirt for her injuries) she has just three events left — the Big Ten Championships this weekend, the NCAA West Preliminaries, and the NCAA Championships.
She has seven top-three finishes in the Big Ten Championships, which start Friday in State College, Pa. It’s not only an opportunity to add to her collection, but one to truly put her remarkable talents on display as the season draws itself to a close.
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