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Joey Woody loves winning Big Ten Conference titles. He’ll take one — make that two — every season.
“That’s definitely our No. 1 goal,” said Woody, the director of track and field at the University of Iowa.
But winning indoor and outdoor track and field conference championships is not enough. Woody wants more — much more.
“We still have big goals to accomplish,” he said.
Case in point. The Hawkeyes enter this weekend’s Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis as the two-time defending outdoor champions, the reigning indoor champions and the top-ranked team in the league.
But they are ranked No. 20 in the USTFCCCA National Rating Index.
So while winning the Big Ten title is something that “doesn’t get old, not at all” there is work to do to get that next level.
Track and field is a different beast than a lot of sports. A good program, able to score in multiple events on the track and in the field, can win or contend for conference championships every year.
It takes something different to win — or even get a trophy — at the NCAA Championships.
“It’s the elite of the elite,” said Woody, who once was among those elite as an NCAA champion at Northern Iowa who was once ranked as high as second in the world in the 400-meter hurdles. “You have to basically be at that Olympic level ... and you’ve got to have multiple guys.”
That’s the goal. That’s the path the Iowa men’s team is on.
“I feel like we’re in a good place,” Woody said. “We’re definitely headed in that direction.
“We’re closer than we were a few years ago.”
There’s no doubt about that. When Woody took over the program, it was in a good place — Iowa won the Big Ten outdoor title in 2011 under Larry Wieczorek — but Woody quickly moved it to a better, more consistent, place.
Iowa finished third outdoors in 2015, his first season, then won it all in 2019 and 2021 (the 2020 championship was canceled by COVID). The Hawks placed second indoors in 2020, then won it in 2021 and ’22.
Sweeping the titles last year was a program first since 1963 and now Woody’s Hawkeyes are poised to do it again.
“It’s become an expectation,” he said.
That, too, was part of his “five-year plan” when he took over. Make winning championships — men’s and women’s — the norm.
“They know what they need to do” to win the title, Woody said, talking about the men’s team. The women’s team has progressed, too, but enters this weekend’s championships ranked 46th in the country, seventh in the Big Ten.
“This is the most talented and deep team we’ve had,” he said.
That will bode well Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the University of Minnesota.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Woody said. “On paper, it’s very close between us and Ohio State.”
But it’s a meet the Hawkeye men can — maybe even should — win ... again.
Woody is the right man for the task, too, and not just because of his running pedigree. Since returning home to Iowa City, what he’s done is nothing short of remarkable. He has led Iowa to 46 Big Ten individual titles, 11 conference relay titles, coached three Big Ten Athletes of the Year and 166 All-Americans.
So, yes, Woody has Iowa pointed in the right direction. He just hopes there is more to come — sooner and later.
“It’s exciting,” he said.
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