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Distance runners have some catching up to do

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 10, 2011 7:10 AM

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Larry Wieczorek and Jeff Thode stood inside the Recreation Building on Monday discussing what the distance runners would do during practice.

Lately, the sophomore has been carrying the load because this group has been smaller than desired.
Injuries have limited a number of athletes from competing at full strength. Because of this, the distance group has some catching up to do.

“We’re not where I would like to be,” head men’s track coach Wieczorek said in a disappointed tone at Monday’s practice.

After a cross-country season in which Mark Battista remained healthy, the team’s captain suffered through hamstring soreness before the start of track season.

His first action wasn’t until the mile run on Jan. 22 at the Jack Johnson Classic, the squad’s third meet of the year.

Following last weekend’s season début in the 3,000 meters, he said he felt some discomfort in his left shin.

He won’t run this weekend at the Cyclone Classic in Ames because of shin splints. Wieczorek said he thought the senior could miss up to two weeks.

Following an injury-riddled fall, Nick Holmes has yet to compete for the track team.

The native of Peoria, Ill., missed all of the cross-country season with a stress fracture in his leg and an Achilles injury.

Holmes is now hoping for a return at the start of the outdoor season in mid-March. The sophomore had an MRI on Wednesday to determine the extent of an injury to his shin. He said he will be out two to eight weeks depending on the severity of the injury.

Holmes ranks in the top 10 all-time at Iowa in the 1,500, 3,000, and 10,000 meters and the distance medley relay.

“The injuries really kind of knock the wind out of your sails,” Wieczorek said. “When somebody is out and not training — standing on the sideline cheering with you — that’s not a good thing.”

The veteran head coach said missing time in track is different than missing time in other sports. While a running back may miss a whole week of practice and then be cleared to play on game day, runners can’t go extended periods of time without training.

“Runners are like thoroughbred racehorses,” he said. “It’s devastating when you miss a lot of time.”

Senior James Paul made his season début in the mile last weekend at Notre Dame, finishing the race in 4:16.47.

Paul injured his Achilles tendon just before the cross-country regional meet in November. Now, he feels he getting back to full strength.

“It’s been a long time, but I think we took the right approach to it,” he said. “I took some time off and just rehabbed, so I think it’s completely better now.”

Wieczorek said more runners need to get healthy soon in order to have an effect on the team.

Thode has been one of the few distance runners making significant gains this year. Following an All-American cross-country season, he is roughly one month ahead of where he was in the year compared with last season.

The sophomore ran the mile in 4:03.66 last weekend at Notre Dame. He set the school record in the mile at 4:03.07 in March of last season.

“We’re way behind in terms of training,” Thode said. “With only having three runners, and sometimes only two runners, running at a meet for the distance team, it’s just like, ‘OK, obviously, we’re not where we were at last year.’”


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