Men’s runner slows down


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Chris Barton was his usual self following what men’s head track coach Larry Wieczorek called the best indoor race of the senior’s career at the Iowa Invitational Feb. 18.

He was dead.

Barton couldn’t be found following the 600 meter race.

“He’s probably dead somewhere near the finish line,” fellow Hawkeye Adam Hairston said, only half joking.

Crossing the finish line in 1:19.77, Barton was out of it. Several minutes passed before he was spotted near Iowa’s bleachers — bent over and hands on his knees, as if the 600 had just ended.

“He’s the one on his back lying on the ground after running,” said sophomore Keaton Rickels, who often trains with Barton during practices. “He’s just a big guy.”

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While Barton doesn’t know why he becomes so winded compared with other runners following events, it’s something he has dealt with since he started running when he was 6 years old.

One explanation may lie in Barton’s 6-5, 205-pound frame.

Running indoors on the smaller, 200-meter track in the Recreation Building is much more difficult for someone of his size compared with running on the larger, 400-meter outdoor Cretzmeyer Track.

Barton called running in lane one in the Recreation Building, the inner-most lane, “something else.”

“Because I’m putting so much force going around [the curves], there is a lot more circular energy on my behalf than there is on most others’ behalves,” he said. “The force that I have to exert on my right-hand side in order to stay in my lane is a lot.”

Because of his size, he tries to slow down a bit on the turns and then pick it back up on the straightaways. It’s a strategy that seems to be working — he has lowered his time in the 600 each time out this season.

At this weekend’s Big Ten meet, Barton will aim for a time in the 1:18 area.

Knowing that his times will be slower than other Hawkeyes, Barton admitted that his confidence drops a bit during the indoor portion of track season.

A member of last year’s outdoor All-American 1,600-meter relay team, he has been overshadowed by other Hawkeyes throughout 2011.

His teammates’ accomplishments have pushed him to the background. Team newcomers Justin Austin and Troy Doris own three school records, and the likes of Erik Sowinski and Jeff Thode have each broken school records while automatically qualifying for the NCAAs.

In fact, all but one event record, the 5,000 meters, is held by a current member of the men’s track and field team.

“It’s one of those situations where we have a lot of people doing outstanding things, so sometimes someone can get lost in the shuffle,” Wieczorek said. “His best is yet to come.”

Rickels had similar feelings about his teammate’s outdoor potential.

“Once we get outdoors, he’ll be a completely different runner,” Rickels said.

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