Running the forever season

BY SEAN MORGAN | AUGUST 21, 2009 7:07 AM

For collegiate distance runners, the season never ends.

When they sign on to compete in cross-country, they sign on to compete in both indoor and outdoor track as well — meaing their season stretches from the first week of September through late June, with only a handful of weeks for rest in between.

For Larry Wieczorek, who is the head coach of both the men’s cross-country and track and field teams, balance is the key to successfully coaching and competing in a seemingly never-ending season.

“It takes a lot of planning,” said Wieczorek, who is now entering his 23rd and 14th season coaching cross-country and track and field, respectively. “You have to emphasize certain competitions and de-emphasize others.”

One of the runners he will count on to help lead his squad this season is senior Brendan Camplin. Entering his fifth year in Iowa City, the Batavia, Ill., native has become accustomed to the wear and tear of the long-distance season.

“It works pretty well once you get used to it,” he said. “The more free time I have, the less likely I am to get things done. This schedule works for me. It makes me more productive.”

To be productive at the collegiate level, the brief off-season must be used to the fullest by both coach and runner. For the athletes, maybe the most integral aspect of preparing themselves for the upcoming season is getting used to the terrain change.

“Grass is not as forgiving as the track,” Camplin said. “It absorbs more energy, and it’s uneven. I’ve been running on paved roads and bike paths. You have to settle into the routine.”

The difficult footing is not the only physical challenge facing distance runners during the brief two months they are left to train on their own. Keeping up their mileage is a necessity to prevent a decline in their times.

“Right now, I’m averaging about 90 miles a week,” junior Sam Bailin said. “I feel like I’m in a better position to help the team this year than I was last year. As long as I go about six miles a day, it should get me ready for the season.”

For Wieczorek, the summer doesn’t represent time away from the program, either. From May to June, it is his job to fill the cross-country roster as well as the track and field team while his wife attempts to plan vacations during his sparse time off.

When he’s out recruiting, he said, he uses state track meets to gauge talent.

“That is were we see athletes turn into bona fide prospects,” he said. “It’s pretty much year-round for us. You always want that blue-chip prospect, but as a coach, it’s always a pleasure to develop an athlete, too. It’s the same in all sports. It takes both.”

Wieczorek likes the combination he has set up for himself this season. With such veterans as Bailin and Camplin complementing star senior runner Jesse Luciano, the core of his squad is all but set.

Young runners such as redshirt freshman Nick Holmes and incoming freshman Jeff Thode, who each won individual Illinois state titles in 2007 and 2008, respectively, will look to push the more established members of the squad.

“We want to get the team to nationals,” Camplin said.

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