Sophomore hurdler growing up in year two

BY BEN SCHUFF | JANUARY 25, 2011 7:10 AM

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Jordan Mullen’s right knee cap is bruised and a light shade of purple, displaying a number of small nicks. Above it and to the inside of his right thigh are two slightly larger cuts. The back of his left thigh is freshly red after practicing three-step, five-step variations over hurdles during practice on Monday.

“I live on ibuprofen,” he joked.

The scrapes and bruises are simply part of the life of a hurdler.

A life Mullen is now excelling in.

The sophomore broke the school record in the 60-meter hurdles last weekend at Minnesota with a time of 7.75 seconds. That time ties him for fourth nationally and puts him 0.01 behind Illinois’ Andrew Riley for the best time in the Big Ten.

After posting a then-personal best 8.02 at the indoor Big Ten meet last year, Mullen has bested himself in all three meets to start this season.

His previous best mark was 7.88, which he ran at the Iowa Open on Jan. 15.

Yet the times wouldn’t have been possible without his rededicating himself to the sport he loves.

When asked what has been the best part of having such success to start the season, Mullen paused and said, “Just to know that I can still be here.”

An injury to his right quadriceps cut short Mullen’s first outdoor campaign at Iowa. He referred to it as “the most depressed I’ve ever been in my life.”

To make matters worse, he was suspended from numerous meets as a result of two alcohol-related charges.

But assistant coach Joey Woody didn’t give up on the seven-time high-school state champion.

“When these guys are freshmen, they’re young and don’t quite get the whole feel or handle of what Division-I athletics are about,” Woody said. “He’s a young guy who needed to be put in the right direction.”

Last summer, the Atlantic, Iowa, native moved to Omaha to live with his father. He got a job and started lifting weights six times a week. He started working with a trainer; when while trying to finish a set, the trainer caught the bar before it hit Mullen’s chest.

Mullen, who continued to work out with the trainer for the remainder of the summer, said they were the most intense workouts he had ever done.

Both Woody and head coach Larry Wieczorek credit the 20-year-old’s hard off-season work for his success this year.

In fact, Wieczorek wasn’t shocked when he saw Mullen’s record-breaking performance last weekend.

“Coach Woody said to me before the preliminary race, ‘Let’s go watch a school record,’ ” Wieczorek said.

The coaches aren’t the only ones taking notice of Mullen’s rededication. His teammates have noticed a new mindset as well.

“He’s changing, more focused,” said Keaton Rickels, who was Mullen’s roommate during their first year. “He was always serious on the track. Now he is serious off the track.”

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