Women’s track and field heads to Arizona looking to build off success

Iowa State junior Jhoanmy Luque lands in the pit during the Drake Relays long jump final on April 28. Luque’s jump of 20-1 led her to finish in first place.

Spencer Suckow

Number one almost didn’t happen for Jhoanmy Luque.

After committing three consecutive fouls, the Cyclones’ senior long and triple jumper found herself firmly in second place during the triple jump at the Florida Relays. With one jump to go, Luque needed to dig deep to have any hope of winning the event.

She did that and then some. Not only did Luque win the event with a personal record outdoor jump of 44-9 ½ feet, but she now finds herself as the top ranked triple jumper in the entire country.

“It feels amazing,” Luque said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and all the hard work that I put into it came together.”

Luque’s jump was the highlight of what was an exceptional weekend for Iowa State women’s track and field last weekend. The Cyclones showed very well, with several top 10 finishers and personal records set at both the Florida Relays, as well as the Stanford Invitational.

This week, both the men’s and women’s track and field teams will travel to Tempe, Arizona, for the Sun Angel Classic. Luque won’t travel with the team in order to get some rest for upcoming meets, but the senior says she plans to use the time off as a way to cut down on fouls and continue her improvement as an athlete. 

“I definitely still have a lot to work on,” Luque said. “This past meet, I fouled four jumps out of six. Right now, I’m focusing on my approach and getting that good so that I don’t have a lot of fouls.”

One of the other top finishers from Florida who will be making the trip is Essence Henderson, who herself is off to a great start this outdoor season.

After taking first at the Tulsa Duels in her Iowa State discus debut two weekends ago, Henderson followed up last weekend with a 49-9 ¼ throw and a third-place finish in the shot put.

Both performances were good enough to land Henderson a spot in the top seven of Iowa State track and field history for both events.

That’s quite the accomplishment, especially for only being a freshman. However, Henderson claims she hasn’t lived up to her own expectations and she too has room for improvement.

“Honestly, I expected more,” Henderson said. “My technique has changed a lot this year, so I’m building off of that. When that’s right, it’ll all hit at the same time.”

While Henderson will be looking to perform up to her expectations, so too will Iowa State’s distance runners. With eight top 10 finishes and four personal records at the Stanford Invitational, the meet went about as well as coach Andrea Grove-McDonough could’ve hoped for.

Although there were some athletes who made the trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Stanford Invitational was the start of the outdoor season for several distance runners.

With that in mind, Grove-McDonough said she was happy with the way the distance runners performed and there weren’t really any Cyclones who didn’t run well.

“I thought it was a really nice start for us,” Grove-McDonough said. “You never know what you’re going to get in that situation, but I was really pleased with the way they competed. That tells us that the athletes are in a good place, mentally and otherwise.”

While the Cyclones met the challenge of starting the outdoor season on the right foot, Grove-McDonough mentions an entirely new challenge will be facing the Cyclones when the travel to Arizona this weekend: the heat.

While Iowa has been unseasonably cold for most of the week, high temperatures in Tempe, Arizona, are expected to surpass 90 degrees this weekend. On top of that, it’ll also be the second consecutive weekend with a meet for Iowa State, meaning fatigue could play a factor.

With that in mind, Grove-McDonough says some of the longer distance runners will stay home this weekend to recover. For the group making the trip, however, Grove-McDonough still expects high-level performances despite the adverse conditions.

After all, that is the expectation that has been set.

“It kind of is what it is,” Grove-McDonough said. “We’ll just take it as it comes. This is a really good group that’s really on top of their game, so I think that they’re pretty well organized in terms of preparing.”