Men’s track and field core needs to grow for Hawkeyes


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Ask any member of the Iowa men’s track and field team about his goals for the season, and odds are it won’t take long before a pattern starts to develop.

Although the Hawkeyes are only about halfway through their indoor season, they know what awaits them at the end of their outdoor season.

The 2011 outdoor Big Ten meet will be held in Iowa City on May 13-15.

That is the goal.

This group of Hawkeyes wants to be Big Ten champs. They want to do it at home.

But before that can happen, head coach Larry Wieczorek knows that his squad’s core group of guys must grow.

“We have the people there,” Wieczorek said. “But it’s a question of, Will they catch that fire?”

Heading into the season, Iowa knew who could be counted on from last year’s team. All-Americans Erik Sowinski, Patrick Richards, Chris Barton, and Steven Willey all returned.

Justin Austin and Troy Doris transferred to Iowa, and each has had an instant effect. They hold three school records between the two of them.

“Expanding the core as much as we can is what ultimately will get us to the Big Ten championships,” sophomore Ethan Holmes said during practice last week before the Razorback Invitational.

The sophomore was one member of the team Wieczorek hopes would step up, the coaches talked about with him about that before the season started.

Now, he appears to be a part of that nucleus.

The native of Clinton has posted personal best times in the 60-meter hurdles (8.13) and 400-meter dash (47.99).

Holmes also filled in for Barton on the 4x400 relay team that posted the second-fastest time in the country at 3:07.84.

“When coach told me I was running the ‘A’ 4x4, that was just, oh man,” Holmes said. “Nerves started flowing right there.”

“This weekend proved it,” assistant coach Joey Woody said. “I think he can still improve quite a bit these next four or five weeks over the high hurdles to set himself up for the Big Ten level.”

Wieczorek and other coaches are still looking for more guys to step up.

Matt Banse was one name the 15-year head coach mentioned as someone who the team needs to continue to improve.

During this past week of practice before the Razorback Invitational, Banse backed off his work a bit in the weight room.

The move paid off for the junior, who threw a personal best 55 feet, 9 1/4 inches in the shot put last weekend.

The high jump is one event in whichWieczorek believes no one has made it yet.

Senior Graham Valdes, junior Jeff Herron, and sophomore Brandon Oest have all taken top honors for the Hawkeyes in at least one meet this year. But with all three holding a personal best high jump of 6-11, one of them needs to break 7 feet in order to give Iowa a legitimate contender against Big Ten competition.

Seven feet is something Oest believes is within reach.

“It’s certainly been frustrating,” he said. “Every week has been a step closer and a step closer. It’s just a matter of putting it together on the day.”

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