Shot putter eyes last college hurrah

BY J.T. BUGOS | JUNE 10, 2009 7:26 AM

John Hickey’s favorite moment of his four-year career was finishing second to teammate Shane Maier in the Big Ten indoor championships his sophomore year. Hickey describes it as the best competition he has ever been in and says his success at a young age and being able to share the podium with a teammate made it special.

When the NCAA outdoor championships kick off today in Fayetteville, Ark., he hopes to stand on the podium again and become a three-time All-American.

Hickey described his senior campaign thus far as rough. Although he didn’t have the success he has wanted, Hickey’s season-best throw of 60-13⁄4 qualified him for this week’s event. For a few days, he hung in the balance, but eventually he was awarded an at-large bid.

“I knew I had a good chance to get in, so I really wasn’t too worried,” he said. “And then when I found out for certain, it was a big load off my chest.”

Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek was never too worried about his qualifying after the NCAA Midwest Regional final in Norman, Okla.

“You never do know until it’s finally decided, but we were pretty confident when we left Oklahoma that he would get in,” Wieczorek said.

These championships will be the final competition for Hickey in an Iowa uniform, and both he and Wieczorek look forward to being able to put the final touches on a stellar career. After throwing 63 feet indoors earlier this year, a new personal and school record, Hickey said his goals are not only to best that mark, but to win a medal as well.

“I’m hoping to place somewhere in the top three at nationals — I think that’s very doable,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve ever felt, so I’m hoping with the top three finish comes a new personal and school record.”

Wieczorek’s goals for Hickey are of the same nature. He believes Hickey still has some unlocked potential, a next level that he is capable of going to that he hopes will be shown this week.

“John could be in that top five people at nationals, I don’t think that would be unrealistic at all if he throws the way he’s capable of,” the coach said.

While Hickey is nervous for this last competition against some of the best throwers in the country, including Minnesota’s Aaron Studt — whom, Wieczorek points out, Hickey has beaten before — he is still confident he will throw well.

“It’s my last one, and it’s nationals,” he said. “I know I can do well, I know I’m going to do well, but after this, that’s it. I’m excited, scared. It’s mixed emotions, but it’s going to be good.”

This confidence is not misplaced — Hickey is an All-American, Big Ten champion, and previous NCAA meet qualifier. Wieczorek sees something more in Hickey than just a great thrower in his program. To him, Hickey has helped create the throws program he set out to build as head coach.

“When I became head coach, I said one of my visions was to build a strong throws program and support that program as the head coach,” Wieczorek said. “What assistant coach Scott Cappos and John are doing is really a fulfillment of the vision that I had for our program.”

Even though this is Hickey’s last competition as a Hawkeye, it may not be the last time he throws. He will compete in the USA nationals next month, which, he said, will be his last competition this year.

“After next year, hopefully, I’ll be at a point where I can get a sponsor and then go professional,” he said.

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