Hawkeyes to compete against defending league champs

BY BEN SCHUFF | JANUARY 21, 2011 7:10 AM

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While there will be eight other schools competing at this weekend’s Jack Johnson Classic, the Iowa men’s track and field team will mostly concern itself with only one.

Host Minnesota.

The Golden Gophers are the only other Big Ten school in the meet. But more importantly, Minnesota has won four-straight league titles — two indoor and two outdoor.

The meet will serve as a measuring stick for Iowa.

“This is a meet I’ve been looking forward to,” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “They’re the defending Big Ten champs, so it will be an excellent test.”

All events will be scored by combining both the men’s and women’s results into one total score.

Wieczorek said he’ll calculate how his men’s team fared against the men from Minnesota for more meaningful results.

And on paper, there should be plenty of opportunities for the Hawkeyes.

Several key runners who were held out of last weekend’s Iowa Open, including last year’s All-Americans Erik Sowinski and Steven Willey, will be back on the track in Minneapolis.

"Last weekend was meant to rest some guys so we’re at peak performance later down the road,” Sowinski said.

The Hawkeyes will also have the services of Mark Battista, who will make his season début.

The cross-country captain completed his first full track workout on Tuesday following a long cross-country season.

“I’m just excited to run because I’ve been sidelined for so long,” said Battista, who will run the mile. “It’s been kind of a bummer seeing the team have success without me.”

Throwers coach Scott Cappos said the Iowa throwers will face good competition.

Minnesota’s Trey Davis placed second in the shot put at the outdoor Big Tens last year. Teammate Micah Hegerle was named the Big Ten Field Event Athlete of the Week after a weight throw of 66 feet and 21⁄4 inches Jan. 15.

“The head-to-head competition will be something that I look forward to and they look forward to,” Cappos said. “The winner of these kind of meets might end up being a Big Ten champion at the end of February.”

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