116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Joey Woody has known success most of his life.
From his days at Iowa City High School to the University of Northern Iowa, he was a standout athlete — a state and NCAA champion hurdler.
That's why it's no surprise the 47-year-old Woody is finding success as a coach of track and field at the University of Iowa these days. But, actually, it is kind of surprising.
He has taken the Hawkeye men's program — the women aren't far behind — to heights other coaches, other good coaches, couldn't.
Iowa track and field has never had a championship pedigree. For many years, it was the third-best program in the state.
That's no longer the case.
Iowa captured its first outright Big Ten indoor men's title since 1929 last weekend, scoring a school-record 119 points. That comes on the heels of a runner-up finish at the 2020 indoor meet and a team title at the 2019 outdoor meet. That's a 1-2-1 finish in the last three Big Ten men's track and field championships.
'Our mission is to be the best program in the country,' Woody said Saturday, after wrapping up the team title in Geneva, Ohio. 'That starts with being the best program in the Big Ten.'
Getting the Hawkeye program to this point didn't happen overnight. It been a long — and ongoing — process, getting the right coaches in the right places, getting the right athletes, the right kind of athletes. Changing attitudes.
Woody was an NCAA 400 hurdle champion and four-time All-American at UNI, where Chris Bucknam built the Panthers into a Missouri Valley Conference powerhouse and a team capable of making noise at the NCAA Championships. Woody is following a similar plan at Iowa.
'You have to have a plan of attack,' Woody said earlier this week, before being named the Big Ten Coach of the Year. 'We want to be a complete team ... we need to be a complete team.
'We've always focused on having athletes in every single event area and contributing.'
Contributing doesn't mean winning every event, but scoring points and competing with the best in your conference, the best in the country.
The plan only works, however, if you have the right athletes, those willing to run, jump or throw for little or no scholarship aid. Men's track and field can offer 12.6 scholarships, broken up in creative ways by creative coaches. There are walk-ons, 'small scholarship' athletes and 'super stars' who take a bit more of that pie.
'Our No. 1 priority is to recruit the best kids in the state of Iowa,' Woody said, taking another page from Bucknam's book at UNI.
'It's amazing the (financial) sacrifice a lot of kids make to be part of a championship team.'
Walk-ons, 'small scholarship' and super stars need coaching, too.
'Our coaches are very good at developing athletes,' Woody said. 'You've got to have coaches who have the same mentality, the same work ethic. ... We have a passion for success. We have a passion for this sport.'
Athletes not only want to be champions, but part of championships.
That's something Woody learned from his mentor, the late John Raffensperger, at City High.
'This is the expectation ... we're competing to win championships,' he said. 'You've got to get (the athletes) to see the vision ... to be the best in the country.'
That is how you build a championship program — a vision, a coaching staff that can develop talent, athletes who buy into the plan and are willing to sacrifice for the 'team' even in an individual sport.
That, in a nutshell, is the Iowa track and field program under Joey Woody.
'It's a pretty good sign of where we're at as a program,' he said about the indoor title.
But Woody and his staff are not done, are not close to being satisfied.
'We've got this train rolling.'
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