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Men’s tracksters on quest to qualify

BY MATT SCHOMMER | MARCH 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Swedish rock group Europe might call this weekend’s Last Chance Meet in Ames the “Final Countdown.”

With the NCAA Championships taking place next weekend, the Iowa men’s track and field team has one final attempt to reach the national event. Nothing is set in granite yet for the Hawkeyes, and several athletes, including Erik Sowinski, are on the “March Madness Bubble” of track.

An automatic qualifying time is an accomplishment only a few elite athletes in the country can attain, and the achievement is even more impressive during the indoor period, Sowinkski said.

“With indoors it’s a lot harder to make it,” he said. “[The NCAAs] only take the top 16 individuals for most events, and I think I’m right at 16. With outdoors, they take more than that.”

Tracksters, such as Adam Hairston and Steven Willey, are also on the cusp of qualifying in their respective events. One small factor that may aid the team is the location of the meet.

The men already succeeded in Ames earlier this season, so familiarity shouldn’t be a problem. It may even give the squad an advantage.

“It helps because with a longer race, you know exactly where the marks are,” Hairston said. “If you’ve raced there before, and maybe you didn’t have a fast time, you know how to alter your race.”

The Hawkeyes had several athletes provisionally qualify for nationals at Iowa State’s Cyclone Classic three weeks ago.

That could be paramount in whether or not Iowa will be able to get a few athletes over the hump for an NCAA bid.

“I think the chances are really good,” Hairston said. “I think we’ve been getting faster each week, so it makes sense that this meet will be our fastest. We’ve got to realize that the season might be done for some people, but it’s not done for us.”

Hairston’s remarks hint at the rapidly approaching outdoor season, which commences after the NCAA Championships.

Even with that season forthcoming, the athletes know their concentration must remain on the upcoming meet.

“Coach Wiz always tells us it’s best to be happy in May,” Sowinski said. “But, if were not good now, we aren’t going to be good then. We still have to be competing well in these events.”

One major difference in the end-of-the-year contests will be the absence of an Iowa thrower in the NCAA Championships.

None of the throwers provisionally qualified — a feat coach Scott Cappos said hasn’t managed in seven years.

“Well, it’s kind of tough,” he said. “We graduated two All-Americans last year … and we don’t really have enough scholarship money to get those kinds of guys every year.”

Cappos has decided to hold his throwers out of the meet this weekend, and begin concentrating on the outdoor season. The team has already started practice outside this week as the weather has lightened up.

“It’s a little snowy still,” Cappos said. “But, we haven’t lost any implements in practice yet.”


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