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Fourth-place finish for Hawkeye men’s track and field at Big Tens

BY BEN SCHUFF | FEBRUARY 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s track and field team showed why sports aren’t played on paper.

The squad headed to the indoor Big Ten meet on Feb. 25 with head coach Larry Wieczorek projecting a 72-point, sixth-place finish. The coaching staff based those projections on the top-eight performances in each event this season.

Instead, the Hawkeyes returned from Champaign, Ill., with an 88-point, fourth-place finish.

“We maximized our expectations,” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “Everybody stepped up, and we’re really excited with how things went.”

The Hawkeyes won three individual titles. It marked the first time since 2008 that a Hawkeye has won an individual Big Ten championship. The three titles are also the most the team has won at a single Big Ten meet during the past 15 years.

Transfers Justin Austin and Troy Doris continued to leave their mark on the program. Austin won the 200 meters in 21.23 seconds, and Doris jumped 52 feet, 6 inches to take the triple jump.

Austin’s performance in the 60-meter dash on Feb. 26 was noteworthy — he broke the school record for the third time this year. The junior ran a time of 6.69 seconds, but unfortunately for him, it was only the preliminaries. He placed fourth during the finals on Sunday, with a time of 6.73.

“I was looking forward to the 200,” Austin said after his disappointing finish in the 60. “I took it aggressively, ran it out of anger, and fortunately it worked out. Everybody has those races, and mine came at a bad time.”

Doris’ triple jump was nearly a foot better than that of Ohio State’s Mike Hartfield, who finished second with a jump of 51 feet, 6 1 ⁄4 inches.

Yet after the meet, he listed off several things he wasn’t pleased with.

“I wasn’t checked in,” he said. “I got too comfortable with the competition and it totally worked against me.”

The Hawkeyes took first in the 4x400 meter relay; Patrick Richards, Ethan Holmes, Erik Sowinski, and Steven Willey crossed the finish line in 3:12.13.

The victory earned Iowa 10 points, putting them ahead of Ohio State for a lone fourth-place finish. The Black and Gold finished fifth at last year’s indoor meet in Minneapolis.

Jeff Thode scored one point in the 5,000 meters — the event before the 4x400 meter relay — to pull Iowa into a tie with Ohio State. It was an unexpected point for Wieczorek’s team, because, as the veteran head coach described it, the 5,000 meters as a race that “every team will throw anyone left walking in to it.”

Minnesota won the indoor championship for the third-straight year. Combined with outdoor meets, the Golden Gophers now have won five consecutive Big Ten championships.

Harun Abda and Ben Blankenship repeated as individual champions for Minnesota, winning the 600 and the mile.

The next move for some of the Big Ten will be the Last Chance Meet on March 5 — the last meet to qualify for NCAAs. For athletes who have qualified, such as Doris, the NCAAs await on March 11-12.

After that, Iowa will move onto the outdoor season, something the whole team is anxiously awaiting.

“We did better than expected,” Doris said. “I’m real anxious to get outdoors and get everybody on the outdoor track.”


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