Men’s track eyes better finish

BY SEAN MORGAN | JUNE 17, 2009 7:20 AM

Finishing the Big Ten meet with 83 points, the Iowa men’s track and field team ended up seventh.
Though this is no impressive feat, head coach Larry Wieczorek sees a silver lining.

“We went to bed after the second night [of the Big Ten championships] thinking we were going to finish fourth,” Wieczorek said. “We could have been fourth very easily.”

While hopes of that finish were dashed on the third and final day of the Big Ten meet, there was still reason to celebrate. The Hawkeyes sent 10 individuals and two relay teams to the NCAA regional, whose members were underclassmen, and all had personal-best performances.

“We’ve got a lot of good guys coming back next year,” said junior Ray Varner, who finished 18th in the 400-meter hurdles in the NCAA outdoor championships. “I think we can easily be in the top three next year. Go from the bottom to the top.”

Along with fellow senior-to-be Adam Hairston, Varner came very close to scoring in the NCAA championship and garnering All-American honors. Both were eliminated in the semifinals, which Varner intends to use as fuel in the off-season.

“It makes you want it a little more,” he said. “I usually come out strong, maybe in the first 200. I’ve been switching between 12 and 14 steps in [the 400-meter hurdles]. If I can work on that, I’ll be hard to reckon with.”

The 2009 outdoor season also saw a number of young athletes outperforming expectations. One runner that impressed Wieczorek was sophomore-to-be Erik Sowinski. The distance runner is looking to be a leader for the next three years.

“I think I’m a hard worker,” he said. “We are a closely knit group. Hopefully, it can wear off on some other guys and help take us to the next level.”

Other athletes looking to make an impact on next year’s squad are runners Steven Willey and Paul Chaney Jr., and throwers Nick Brayton and Ryan Lamparek. The two throwers will be faced with the daunting task of replacing All-American shot putter John Hickey and school record-setting discus thrower A.J. Curtis.

Wieczorek’s off-season goals are simple yet daunting — get better, at everything.

“We need to be a comprehensive, well-rounded team,” he said. “To have all areas perform at high levels. We want to be a 100-point team. At 100 points, you will be in the top three teams [in the Big Ten].”

Varner’s goal going into his senior campaign is equally as simple and daunting.

“It will be good to get Coach [Joey] Woody a Big Ten championship,” Varner said. “We have been close, but we haven’t gotten one yet.”

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