Men’s cross-country gaining confidence

BY SEAN MORGAN | AUGUST 24, 2009 7:05 AM

Iowa men’s cross-country head coach Larry Wieczorek describes the ideal recruiting class as a good mix of blue-chip prospects and young runners who can be molded into veteran competitors.

When Sam Bailin first came to Iowa, it didn’t look like he would be either.

“When he first started, it was questionable whether or not he could compete at [the collegiate] level,” Wieczorek said.

Bailin wasn’t so sure either.

After a high-school career that was decidedly average for a collegiate runner (a conference championship in the 6,000 meter race was his only major accomplishment), the Urbandale, Iowa, native admits that early in his collegiate career, he didn’t feel he should be wearing the Black and Gold.

“I really wasn’t sure that I could do anything [to help the team],” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Unhappy with his lack of success as a freshman, he worked the summer before his sophomore year to make himself into a more complete runner — one who excels physically and mentally.

To do so, he consistently ran 13 miles every day. By doing so, Wieczorek said, he built what he called “the aerobic base.”

“I look at it like a triangle,” the coach said. “At the bottom, there is that wide foundation built on aerobics, where you log the mileage. At the top of the triangle, you have speed.”

Bailin also began running with the team’s fastest runner, Jesse Luciano, who holds the school record in the 6,000 meter.

“Sam was a back-of-the-packer for a while there,” Luciano said, “He would be finishing well behind our second slowest guy.”

As Bailin’s conditioning became sounder, his confidence began to grow as well. His sophomore season saw great improvements, running career bests in the 6,000, 8,000, and 10,000 meters.

In October 2008 at the Auburn Invitational, he finished the 8,000 meter in 23:36 seconds, ranking him fourth all-time at Iowa in that event.

Now, entering his junior season, he knows what to expect from himself and the sport. With a newfound confidence, Wieczorek sees Bailin as one of his strongest runners, in part because of a great deal of “cockidence,” a term Wieczorek coined.

“If you mix the cockiness with the confidence, that will help you get to the next level,” he said. “That’s what I call ‘cockidence.’

“That’s what Jesse Lusciano has and what I think Sam has been gaining.”

Luciano concurs. He credits Bailin’s mental advantage as the biggest reason he has moved from the back of the pack to the front of the herd.

“He has a real mental talent,” Luciano said. “Most guys will find a pace that keeps them from getting tired. Sam will just run until he gets tired, and then he will keep on going. He’ll stay as long as his body will allow him. That’s why he’s risen to where he is now.”

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