Auburn breeds success for tracksters


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Only a few weeks into the outdoor season, both the men and women’s track and field teams have seen substantial improvement since the end of the indoor campaign.

Both squads fled rainy Iowa during the weekend to the Tiger Track Classic in Auburn, Ala., where personal bests were set and Iowa records were broken.

In what has become a prominent theme for the Hawkeye men, Erik Sowinski again led the way.
The sophomore from Waukesha, Wis., won the 800 meter in 1:49:66, good for fourth all-time for the Hawkeyes. Sowinski owns the indoor record in the 800.

He said fans will start to see faster times as the athletes train through the first weeks of the outdoor season, and he hopes to claim the outdoor 800 record by the year’s end.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “But, we’ll see what happens.”

Sowinski later helped the relay team, which includes senior Ray Varner, junior Steven Willey, and sophomore Patrick Richards, to a win in the 1,600. The relay team had some hand-off problems at last weekend’s meet in Arkansas, but the members rectified those mistakes in practice.

Men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek was pleased with the progress the Hawks made over the course of the week.

“They straightened out some things and had a really good performance,” he said.

Other big showings came from freshman Jordan Mullen, who placed third in the hurdles at 14:06 — the fifth-best performance in Iowa history. Fellow freshman Matt Byers had the third-best javelin throw in school history.

With the younger athletes stepping up, Wieczorek said, he is excited about the direction of the program.

Women’s head coach Layne Anderson is also anticipating a bright future for the women’s program — most notably the sprinters and throwers — based on his team’s showing at Auburn. He said the sprinters had their “best meet in a long time.”

The women’s 1,600-meter relay team — consisting of Tiffany Hendricks, Bethany Praska, Nicole Erickson, and Rhonda-Kaye Trusty — finished third overall with a 3:39. This finish also ranks sixth all-time at Iowa.

Individually, Praska also set her personal best in the outdoor 800 at 2:12. But she said her proudest moment of the meet was being part of the 1,600-meter race, which was the second-to-last event in the two-day meet.

“I think the 4-by-4 definitely fueled the meet for us,” Praska said. “But overall, I think everyone definitely stepped up to the plate. We had people competing and performing well in events left and right.”

The throwers also showed “vast improvements,” Anderson said. With three first-year competitors, the Hawkeyes have had to start from scratch.

Anderson said Majesty Tutson set a personal best in the discus, and teammate Tiffany Medenwaldt set hers in both the discus and shot-put.

While the Hawkeye women sprinters, jumpers, and throwers joined the men at Auburn, 12 distance women went to Pella, Iowa, to compete in the smaller Central Invitational.

Anderson said the meet was an opportunity for some women who have not yet competed or who do not race as much to see some more competition at their level.

Sophomore Kelsey Mims finished first in the 400-meter hurdles with a personal-best of 1:04.

“This entire team has improved a great deal over the last four or five weeks,” Anderson said. “We hope to continue that momentum, but we need to get more competitive in the weeks ahead to compete even better at the outdoor championship.”

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