It was under the radar in comparison to the dominating bulldozer performance of the wrestlers, the Luka Garza-fueled breakthrough of the men's basketball team, and the surprising Gustafson-less success of the women's basketball team, but Iowa's track and field team had itself a pretty damn good winter/spring in 2020, too. That success paid off with a pair of notable individual honors this week.
First, Wayne Lawrence earned Big Ten Men's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year honors.
Iowa sprinter Wayne Lawrence has been named the Big Ten Mens Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, becoming the first Hawkeye to earn that honor.https://t.co/stAGwvLosT— The Daily Iowan (@TheDailyIowan) May 12, 2020
Lawrence is the first Iowa athlete to ever win that award. Lawrence earned the honor by showing off his blazing speed again and again and again. He set school records in the 400 meter (45.56) and 600 meter (1:16.55) events and he owns the 3rd-best time in the 200 meters and 2nd-best time in the 1600-meter relay.
The peak of Lawrence's season came at the Big Ten Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships in Ohio at the end of February. Over two days and five races, Lawrence finished with three gold medals, finishing first in the 200 meters, the 400 meters, and ran the anchor leg as Iowa won the 4x400 meter relay. His blazing success helped power Iowa to a 2nd place finish at the conference tournament, their best finish in almost 50 years (since winning the event in 1963).
That ended up being the last event of Lawrence's season once the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the remainder of the winter and spring sports seasons in 2020. That was a bitter way to end a brilliant campaign, but the good news is that Lawrence is just a sophomore, so he should have additional opportunities to add to his legacy at Iowa. He's certainly off to a tremendous start after just two years at Iowa.
Lawrence wasn't the only Iowa track athlete to win all-conference honors this season, though. Laulauga Tausaga made it a clean sweep for Iowa, as she took home the Big Ten Female Indoor Track Athlete of the Year Award, too.
We've heard "first ever Hawkeye" & "Laulauga Tausaga" put together multiple times this year, but this just might be the best one yet...— Iowa Track & Field/Cross Country (@IowaXC_TF) May 12, 2020
Introducing the 2020 B1G WOMEN'S INDOOR FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR @LaulaugaTausaga https://t.co/BK1SlV3z9Q pic.twitter.com/s2NubZKi6x
Tausaga has been a standout at Iowa for a few years now, but she continued her excellence in 2019-20, building off an appearance at the World Championships last year. She broke her own school record in the shot put (17.96m) earlier in the season and capped things at the Big Ten Indoor Track Championships with a first place finish in the weight throw and a runner-up finish in the shot put. She and Lawrence were named Track and Field Athletes of the Big Ten Indoor Championships after their dazzling displays there and they've one-upped those feats with their all-conference honors this week.
Like Lawrence, Tausaga's season came to an abrupt conclusion due to the COVID-19 pandemic that put a halt to all sports in March. That was an extra-bitter pill for Tausaga to swallow as a senior, although as the outdoor track and field season is a spring sport, the NCAA's decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to spring sport athletes has allowed Tausaga one more chance to compete in black and gold -- which she plans to use next spring.
That's a particularly exciting note about these honors for Lawrence and Tausaga -- these aren't just valedictory notes to serve as the finishing notes on their Iowa careers. They're both going to have the opportunity to add more notable honors to their already impressive Iowa careers. But whatever happens in the future, let's take a moment to celebrate their greatness and dominance now, which led to them sweeping the Big Ten Indoor Athlete of the Year awards. Congratulations, Wayne and Laulauga.