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Men’s cross-country finishes a disappointing ninth at Big Tens

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | NOVEMBER 01, 2010 7:15 AM

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Over the course of the season, the Iowa men’s cross-country team followed a distinct and consistent arc of improvement. Every two weeks, the Hawkeyes raced significantly better than they had before.

That came to a screeching halt on Sunday.

The Hawkeyes placed ninth at the Big Ten championships in Verona, Wis. Iowa had hoped to improve upon its sixth-place finish from last year, and head coach Larry Wieczorek indicated that even third place was possible for his team.

“We’ve been building in a positive way,” Wieczorek said. “And [on Sunday], we had a setback in that progress. I’m not sure what the problem was, but we need to regroup now and get back on track.”

Despite the disappointing team result, the Hawkeyes’ top two runners performed reasonably well.
Mark Battista placed 25th with a time of 24:20, but a tactical error likely cost the senior captain a few places. Battista attempted to break ahead of a tight pack of leaders 3,000 meters into the race and expended too much energy in the process.

“I wasn’t patient, and I probably shouldn’t have made that move,” Battista said. “It definitely cost me a couple places because I didn’t have as much of a kick at the end.”

Sophomore Jeff Thode led the Hawkeyes with a time of 23:56. His ninth-place finish was good enough for a spot on the All-Big Ten second team. But even he expressed little pleasure with the events of the day, saying he felt he should have earned the honor last season.

“I’m not surprised by it,” he said. “If anything, I’d say it’s about time.”

Beyond the duo of Thode and Battista, however, Iowa underperformed. Wieczorek said some of the younger runners in the team’s second group, who the team “may have been counting on,” seemed overwhelmed by the intensified atmosphere of a championship meet. Freshmen Andrew Smith and Nick Young placed 63rd and 65th, respectively.

Thode echoed Wieczorek’s belief, saying the team may have paid too much attention to the competition level.

“Everybody needs to stay focused and not be scared of who we’re racing,” he said.

Following Battista was junior Sam Bailin, who ran a disappointing 24:52 to finish 47th. Junior Chase Kadlec finished 61st, followed by Smith, Young, and junior James Paul in 67th.

The race went out slowly, as the crowded field ran tactically and conserved energy for the second half of the race. That resulted in a tight pack that made things uncomfortable for Iowa’s runners.

Battista said he felt like “cattle in a herd trying to move around out there,” and the tight crowd influenced him to make the ill-advised move toward the front.

Wieczorek said the meet’s result showed the Hawkeyes how competitive the Big Ten is.

“It’s a reminder of how tough you have to be in the Big Ten,” Wieczorek said. “We were off today, and you can’t be off in this conference. If you’re not at your best, you’re going to have difficulties.”


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