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Men’s track looks for identity

BY ZACH SMITH | FEBRUARY 20, 2009 7:34 AM

Larry Wieczorek knew most of what to expect from his men’s track and field team at the beginning of the indoor season last month. But unlike many past seasons gone by, the jury is still out on the 2009 version of the Hawkeyes, despite some already memorable moments and milestones.

“[Our season] is yet to be determined,” the Iowa head coach said. “We have had some different situations with that trip to New York [the Millrose Games]. We started with a dual meet against Illinois, and that was a little different for us. We really are happy with the people in our program. We feel there is a lot of promise with the athletes we have.”

The veteran coach knew his team would be solid in field events with such imposing figures as returning indoor All-American and school-record holder John Hickey as well as multi-event powerhouse A.J. Curtis.

Wieczorek also had at his disposal a handful of veteran distance runners looking to finish their careers on a high note, including Eric MacTaggart, who was an All-American at the 2006 NCAA outdoor championships in the 10,000-meters. Junior Jesse Luciano, the lone All-Big Ten representative for the Iowa men’s cross-country team in the fall, would like a repeat performance.

A handful of Hawkeyes are still trying to make the breakthrough they have been working toward this season.

Those athletes, including junior middle-distance specialist Adam Hairston and freshman sprinter D’Juan Richardson, will get their final chance to clock season bests when Iowa hosts the IowaInvitational this afternoon in the Recreation Building.

Despite a step down from the Hawkeyes’ recent competition, Bradley, Coe, Simpson, Augustana, and North Central College will push Iowa in the right direction.

Wieczorek said that his team’s drive is anything but deterred, though, with just one week until the Big Ten indoor championships in State College, Pa.

“We’re coming off a couple big meets — the Meyo Invitational and the Iowa State Classic. We thought those were pretty important meets to make improvements with our team, and I think we did,” Wieczorek said. “This is just a final tune-up for the Big Ten championships. It’s a little more low-key meet; the competition isn’t quite as tough as it is other times. It’s just a chance for our guys, I think, to get a final tune-up.”

Joey Woody, Iowa’s sprints and hurdles coach, also believes his athletes will rise to the occasion regardless of who they are competing against.

Woody said for his guys, the meet is all about taking the right steps toward next week’s meet.

“My main concern is just getting these guys tuned up and ready to go for the conference meet,” Woody said. “It’s just like coming off an off-week before the big game. We’ve got a couple guys who still have to prove themselves to go to the conference meet.”

Richardson, who has been nursing a sore leg for the past two weeks, will only compete in hurdles today, taking a break from his regular sprinting duties at the request of the Iowa coaches.

Yet the freshman said he was excited about narrowing his focus, if only for just one meet.

“I’ve been training really hard to get down a few technical things I’ve been working on,” he said. “[Running hurdles] is a lot less stressful. Usually, I have three races, and so I have to be prepared to run numerous races.

“In this meet, because I only have one race, I only have to focus on hurdles.”


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