Track program combines teams, success


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The Hawkeyes felt right at home in Ames over this past weekend.

The Iowa track and field team joined 2,500 other athletes at the Cyclone Classic — the first time this season both men and women participated together in the same road venue.

Yet even with other top competitors from around the nation competing under the same roof, Iowa’s energy fueled the meet.

“Coming around the last stretch of the 800 and having the whole team standing up and chanting ‘Let’s go Hawks’ really got me fired up,” sophomore Erik Sowinski said in describing his record-breaking performance at the Cyclone Classic. “I would definitely have to credit part of my race to that.”

He continued to stand as a force for the 2010 Iowa track and field program, breaking his own Iowa record in the 800 meters for the second-consecutive meet with a time of 1:48.9.

The Cyclone Classic wasn’t only filled with personal successes, he said, it served as a “step forward in all aspects for both programs.”

Hawkeye coach Layne Anderson said the event was a testament to the success of the recently combined men’s and women’s track and field program. The teams share coaches, facilities, and now competitions — the conduit for their triumphant weekend.

“Both programs are benefiting from combining, and this weekend showed a new level of competitiveness,” Anderson said. “We were prominent in every single event. Every time you turned around, Iowa was placing high and winning an event.”

While much of the spotlight has been on Sowinski in 2010, a few other young Hawkeyes have sparked the squad this season.

One of the most surprising performances of the meet — and possibly the season — came from Iowa walk-on Brandon Oest.

Oest, in his collegiate debút, tied with Hawkeye Dan Rolling for fourth place in the high jump with a mark of 6-11 — good for seventh all-time at Iowa.

For the women, senior Caleigh Bacchus placed second in the event with a jump of 5-8.

Junior Lauren Hardesty also place second in her event, earning a collegiate-best finish in the 3,000 meters with a time of 9:41.

The Hawkeyes provisionally qualified for the NCAA meet in five different events — four for the men and one for the women.

Sowinski provisionally qualified for two events — one in his record-breaking 800 and another as a part of the 1,600-meter relay with junior Steven Willey, freshman Kevin Dibbern, and senior Ray Varner.

The men’s 1,600 relay has now hit the provisional qualifying time three times this season — the most recent performance being the season-best at 3:09.83.

Senior Adam Hairston also provisionally qualified in the 800 at 1:49.26, a personal best that ranks second all-time at Iowa.

Sophomore Betsy Flood became the second athlete on the women’s squad to provisionally qualify with a third-place finish in the mile. Her 4:46 finish was a collegiate-best, ranking fifth all-time in Hawkeye history.

With personal records and qualifying times across the board, the runners and field-event athletes proved the focus of the 2010 season is unity and teamwork. Hardesty said this is the first season in recent history the Hawkeyes were able to enter athletes in every event.

“In previous years, we’ve had a lot of standout runners, and we didn’t really have the whole team aspect as much,” she said. “We’re finally starting to have a bigger team, which is really encouraging.”

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