IOWA CITY, Iowa – The 2016-17 University of Iowa athletics year concluded this past weekend with the national track meet in Oregon. It was marked by memorable moments.
Football, basketball and wrestling usually receive the most attention. Interest in baseball is increasing. Other athletes and teams in the department deliver performances ranking among the best in the region and country, however.
I decided to compile what I felt were the top sports stories for the year. I could have gone beyond 10 but capping it there amplifies the accomplishments.
Let’s take a look:
10. Iowa Rowing Team Ends 16-Year NCAA Championship Drought – Head coach Andrew Carter and his assistants were named the Region 4 Staff of the Year after leading the Hawkeyes to their second NCAA Championship berth in program history and their first since 2001. The team rose to its highest-ever national ranking (No. 11) during the season and broke the team point record at the Big Ten Championships with 116.
9. Larissa Libby Women’s Gymnastics Big Ten Coach of the Year – Libby snared the top honor for league coaches after leading Iowa to a 25-11 overall record and a 13-5 mark in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes finished third at the Big Ten Championships and in the NCAA Regional. Senior Angel Metcalf and freshman Clair Kaji went on to compete at the NCAA Championships.
8. Emma Sougstad and Calli Head Earn First-Team All-American Honors in Pool – Sougstad earned first-team All-America honors in the 100 breaststroke at the NCAA Championship meet with a time of 58.79 seconds, which was the fifth-fastest time in Big Ten history. The Forest City, Iowa native finished her Hawkeye career with nine school records. Head captured first-team All-America honors off the platform (292.20). The Fox Point, Wisconsin product was Iowa’s first All-American off the platform since 1999.
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7. Aaron Mallett, Brittany Brown, Laulauga Tausaga Capture First-Team All-American Laurels on Track – After winning the Big Ten Title in the 110 hurdles in a school-record 13.24 seconds, Mallet finished fourth at the NCAA meet. Brown took seventh in the 200 meters and Tausaga, a freshman, grabbed seventh in the discus.
6. Peter Jok Leads the Big Ten in Scoring, Named First-Team All-Conference – Jok paced the Big Ten in scoring at 20.2 points per game despite being the focus of opponents’ scouting reports. The senior from West Des Moines (IA) Valley High became the fourth Hawkeye in a row to earn first-team all-Big Ten honors following Devyn Marble, Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff.
5. Natalie Cafone Earns First-Team All-American Honors – After an injury cost her all of the 2015 season, Cafone returned in ’16 to lead Big Ten field hockey players in goals (20). She earned first-team all-American honors for the second time in her career (’14). She was the West Region Player of the Year for the second time and became the fourth athlete in program history to earn All-America honors three times.
4. Jake Adams Smashes Iowa Home Run Record – The unfortunate dropping of North Dakota’s baseball program landed Adams at Iowa, where he cranked out an NCAA best 29 home runs. That dinger total also shattered the program record of 22 set by John Knapp in ’86. Adams led an improbable run of the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes to a Big Ten Tournament title and their second NCAA trip in three years. The Houston Astros selected Adams in the 6th round (No. 181 overall) Tuesday during the MLB Amateur Draft.
3. Wrestler Cory Clark Wins NCAA Title – Clark defeated South Dakota State’s Seth Gross, 4-3, in March to win the 133-pound title. Clark scored the match-winning takedown with 1:24 left in the third period to win his first national championship after falling in the finals the past two years. The Southeast Polk High grad overcame shoulder and wrist injuries that cost him some of his senior season. He was a four-time all-American.
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2. Ally Disterhoft Breaks Women’s Basketball All-Time Scoring Record – A model student and athlete, the Iowa City West graduate broke a mark that stood for 37 years. Cindy Haugejorde rolled up 2,059 points from 1976-80. Disterhoft broke the record during Iowa’s NIT victory against Missouri State and finished her brilliant career with 2,102 points.
1. Iowa Football Upsets No. 3 Michigan – A 33-yard, Keith Duncan field goal as time expired was followed by a sold out crowd at Kinnick Stadium rushing the field and celebrating with their Hawkeyes. A moment that went down as one of the most memorable in the history of the program also served as the coming out party for running back Akrum Wadley, who embarrassed a Wolverine defense flush with NFL talent. Few saw the upset coming after Penn State steamrolled Iowa, 41-14, a week earlier.