Top-three finishes key for men’s track and field

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Recruiting may have been the difference for Iowa at this year’s Indoor Big Ten Championships.

A year ago in Minneapolis, the Hawkeyes scored 56 points on the way to a fifth-place finish. Few pieces have changed from the 2010 version of the Iowa men’s track and field team. In fact, the only member of last year’s team who scored in the 2010 indoor Big Ten championships and is no longer with the Hawkeyes is Ray Varner.

The biggest difference this time around was the production from Justin Austin and Troy Doris — two athletes who transferred to Iowa this year.

Together, the pair combined to score 25 of the Black and Gold’s 88 points at last weekend’s Big Tens in Champaign, Ill.

Both scored 10 points apiece for winning their respective events, with Austin taking the 200 meters and Doris the triple jump.

Austin was able to snag an additional 5 points in the 60-meter dash. The junior’s scoring could have been much greater had it not been for his disappointing fourth-place finish.

“It’s critical to have guys like that who can score in numerous events,” sprints coach Joey Woody said. “That’s the name of the game at conference meets.”

Last year, a sprints group consisting of D’Juan Richardson, Steven Willey, Kevin Dibbern, and Varner scored 21 points total in the 60, 200, and 400 meters. Fifteen of those points came from Richardson, Willey, and Dibbern in the 400 meters.

This year, Iowa sprinters tallied 14 points in the 400-meter dash and 34 points as a group.
The difference? Austin.

“When we’re looking at guys, we’re looking for new athletes who can take it to the next level,” Woody said.

Austin seems to fit that description. When asked where the sprints group would be without him, Woody chuckled and said, “I don’t want to think about that. We’re blessed to have a guy with his talent.”

Doris’ addition to the team is significant, too, considering Iowa high schools don’t hold the triple jump event.

Last year, the Hawkeyes didn’t have anyone with the talent of Doris to enter in the triple jump. Based on his natural ability alone, assistant coach Clive Roberts thinks Doris could simply show up and be No. 1 in the conference.

Now, Iowa has not only the best triple jumper in the Big Ten but one of the best in the country. Doris’ season-best triple jump of 54 feet ranks fifth nationally.

The other key difference was the number of top-three finishes for the Hawkeyes. Steven Willey and the 4x400 relay both finished second at the 2010 Big Tens. That was it.

Last weekend, head coach Larry Wieczorek’s squad recorded eight top-three finishes, including Erik Sowinski in the 800 (second), Jordan Mullen in the 60-meter hurdles (second), Jeff Thode in the mile (third), and Jeff Herron in the long jump (third).

“There have been years where we go, ‘How are we going to score a point here?’ ” Wieczorek said. “If you get guys to the podium, that makes a huge difference.”

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