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Odd-man-out gets even on track

BY MATT SCHOMMER | JANUARY 28, 2010 7:30 AM

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Freshman sprinter Kevin Dibbern doesn’t seem to fit the mold of a Division-I athlete, let alone one who excels. From his exterior, he appears more suited to follow in the footsteps of Bobby Fischer than Usain Bolt.

Coaches and teammates talk about Dibbern in a playful manner, and they note his quiet and reserved personality.

“If you saw him outside of track, you wouldn’t think he’s an athlete,” fellow sprinter and junior Zeke Sayon said. “But he’s a nice kid, and he works very hard. He’s a great competitor.”

That seems to be the “Rudy-esque” stereotype for the young runner, one he’s faced his whole athletics career.

“I’ve always been given a hard time about it,” Dibbern said. “People have made fun of me for it for years, but I don’t mind it that much. I let my performance speak for itself.”

So far, so good.

Last week at the Razorback Invitational in Arkansas, Dibbern won his heat in the 200 meter and placed 13th overall to pace the Hawkeyes.

Because he ran cross-country in high school, Dibbern said, he is better prepared for the collegiate track season.

“Cross-country really helped me with my mental toughness more than anything,” he said. “That’s going to help me at the end of races.”

The City High product had offers from other big-name schools, such as Duke and Notre Dame. He said choosing a college was a tough and lengthy decision for him.

“In the end, I think I made the right choice,” he said. “Iowa made the most sense academically and athletically. It’s nice to put on a jersey that says U of I on it.”

He was a force in high school, a two-time state champion and holder of the sixth-fastest 400-meter time in state history. And although he has already had some success at the college level, some believe he is just scratching the surface of his abilities.

“His potential is phenomenal,” said John Raffensperger, a former City High track coach and volunteer coach at Iowa. “He’s a very physical runner. His straight-line speed is what he really brings.”

But Dibbern isn’t just all about track.

The adjustments he has had made going from high school to college are hard enough, but it might be a little more difficult being an engineering major on top of it.

“I really like dorm life; it’s just like hanging out with a bunch of your friends all the time,” he said.

“But the hardest part is managing my schedule and getting to places on time. It’s nothing like high school.”

If he can navigate his way through his demanding schedule and major, his lofty goals on the track may seem like a breeze.

“I enjoyed running on Arkansas’ banked track, and I’m looking forwad to getting back there for nationals,” he said. “But eventually, I’d really like to be an indoor and outdoor All-American.”


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