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Iowa sets sights on Big Ten Championships in Minnesota

BY MATT SCHOMMER | FEBRUARY 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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This is the big tamale, the granddaddy of them all for the Iowa men’s track and field team.

The Big Ten championships will begin this weekend in Minneapolis, and Iowa will make its way up north to battle the conference’s best in the 100th-annual running of the event.

The first meeting occurred in Evanston, Ill.; oddly enough, Northwestern is the only school in the Big Ten that does not have a track and field team.

But on the centennial anniversary of the Big Ten championships, the Hawkeyes would like to erase last year’s ninth-place finish.

“I expect us to do better than we did last year for sure,” senior Adam Hairston said. “I think we are peaking at the right time. Every week, we have gotten better and better.”

The Hawkeyes will need to continue that trend because the Big Ten boasts some heavyweights this year.

Minnesota is the defending champion, and the No. 17 Golden Gophers have a shot to retain their crown on their home track.

Indiana sits atop the Big Ten and is ranked seventh, followed by 11th-ranked Penn State, and No. 20 Ohio State.

“Minnesota and Wisconsin have always kind of been at the top of the Big Ten, year in and year out,” Hairston said. “But the thing about it is the Big Ten is really kind of wide open, so it’s hard to kind of say who the favorite is.”

With the aforementioned squads having success this year, it will be difficult for Iowa to place near the top of the pack.

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said he believes it will take 100 points to place in the top three, and right now his squad is a “57-point team.”

“I can’t recall the Big Ten ever being this tough in all events,” he said. “All the teams are as tough and deep as I remember, but yet I feel good about our team going into the meet. One of our goals this weekend is to become a 100-point team on paper.”

Wieczorek’s formula seems to be proven by history.

Last year’s Minnesota team won the Big Ten championships with a 135-point performance, and no other team hit the century mark. It will take a complete team effort to get all those “paper points,” including a strong showing from the throwers.

Throwing coach Scott Cappos said he thinks an outstanding meet would have the Hawkeyes finishing in the top-half of the conference.

“I feel that having the home-field advantage is worth at least 10 or 15 points,” he said. “But I think sixth or seventh place for us is realistic, and if we have a great day, crack into the top five as a team.”

The indoor season is almost over and Iowa, a traditionally stronger outdoor squad, hopes to build momentum at the Big Ten championships for the season outside.

That doesn’t mean the Hawkeyes are looking past this event and focused on the outdoor session.

“I always say it’s best to be happy in May,” Wieczorek said. “But we want to keep getting better. We want to be among those top teams this weekend.”


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