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A walk-on with something to prove

BY MATT SCHOMMER | APRIL 06, 2010 7:30 AM

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Men’s track and field walk-on Brandon Oest wasn’t supposed to be good enough to compete for the “big boys” of the college world.

So far, that hasn’t really slowed him down.

The freshman high jumper has seemingly come out of nowhere to boost the Hawkeyes’ already strong corps of jumpers. The Aurora, Ill., native might not be recognizable on the track yet, but if he continues to progress at his current rate, then the Hawkeyes will have stolen a hidden gem from the Land of Lincoln.

Hawkeye head track coach Larry Wieczorek is looking forward to Oest’s remaining time at Iowa, especially because the jumper hasn’t been with the program long.

“He’s a guy who just kind of showed up on our doorstep and wanted to be a Hawkeye,” he said. “I’m looking for some terrific things from him. He’s hungry to do something, and that makes everybody else better.”

The high jumper was only able to garner interest from a few smaller schools before settling on a walk-on position at Iowa. Part of that reason may be his lack of experience or the lack of experience at his high school, Aurora Christian.

“I never really had high-jump coaches at my high school,” Oest said. “And since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten bigger and stronger, which has helped. But coach says my approach needs a ton of work.”

His high-jump coach now, Christi Smith, attributes his rawness to that.

“To be honest, he has no clue how to jump yet,” she said. “He has what I call ‘the will.’ He’s tough and a little hungry. I think he wants it more than the next guy.”

Oest didn’t start jumping for Iowa until the fall semester, giving him little time for conditioning and experience.

That didn’t stop him from posting a first-place finish and personal best 6-11 jump at the Cyclone Classic — a full 10 inches higher than his previous best in high school. He had another 6-10-plus jump at the past weekend’s Tiger Track Classic in Auburn, Ala.

Now that the outdoor season is in full swing, Oest said he expects even more of himself.

“It’s nice to be outside in the sun and stuff,” he said. “Because on colder days, it’s easier to get frozen up, but it should be a fun [season].”

Wieczorek has encouraged Oest, along with several of his less-prominent recruits, to follow a simple pattern to mold themselves into major contributors. His philosophy involves turning those lower profile competitors into athletes comparable with the best high-school recruits in the nation — only a year later.

“[Oest] is doing that,” he said. “He’s made himself into a real bona fide Division-I recruit.”



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