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Men’s track enters meet ranked for first time since ‘98

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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In an indoor season that has been marked by great individual success, the Iowa men’s track and field team picked up a significant team accolade this week.

For the first time since 1998, the Hawkeyes rank in the top 25.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association weekly rankings were released on Tuesday, with Iowa ranked 14th. The squad jumped 15 spots that, with Alabama, is the biggest jump up the rankings this week of any school in the top 25.

The team will defend that ranking tonight when it hosts the Iowa Invitational, entertaining Coe, Drake, St. Ambrose, and Western Illinois. Meet time is set for 5 p.m. in the Recreation Building.

One of 11 seniors on the 43-man roster, Chris Barton was a member of teams that finished eighth and ninth at the Big Ten indoor championships during his freshman and sophomore seasons.

Barton said the high ranking in his senior campaign isn’t all that surprising given the number of school records the team has broken this year.

“What I hoped to do when I came in here freshman year was be part of a really good team,” he said. “[We’re] finally becoming that, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.”

A handful of Iowa’s top runners won’t be in action this weekend in preparation for next weekend’s Big Ten meet. Justin Austin, Steven Willey, and Erik Sowinski are a few who will rest during tonight’s meet.

Barton, an All-American last year, will compete in the 600, and he hopes to finish with a time around 1:18. His top time so far this season is 1:20.85.

Iowa runners Ethan Holmes and Nathan Prom will try to continue their recent success on the home track.

Holmes, who redshirted during last year’s indoor season, has ran personal bests in the 60-meter hurdles and the 400 meters in each of the last two meets. In Ames on Feb. 12, the 19-year-old finished the 60-meter hurdles in 8.08 seconds, the event he will run tonight.

“I think it has taken me a little while to realize the point that I can take my body to in a race,” he said, noting that confidence has been a big reason for his improvements. “When you run really well in one race, it makes it easier for everything else to come together.”

Prom is a true freshman who will run the 1,200 meters; he aims for a time around 3:00. The native of Carpentersville, Ill., credited Sowinski with helping him transition to training and running at the Big Ten level.

“He made me realize that even though I’ll fall behind [training], I’m still running well,” Prom said. “He really tries to keep my mind in it and stay positive.”

While at least five athletes who hold school records won’t compete, head coach Larry Wieczorek said it won’t lessen the importance of the meet.

The 15-year head coach doesn’t think the team is quite where it needs to be with Big Tens only a week away.

“I think it’ll be that final tune-up for some of our people,” Wieczorek said. “Maybe some of them can show us they should be on the traveling team going to the Big Ten meet.”


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