Last chance for Iowa track and field looms

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 04, 2011 7:20 AM

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Several Hawkeye runners will have a chance to join teammates Erik Sowinski, Troy Doris, and Justin Austin at the NCAA indoor championship meet on March 11 and 12 when they compete at this weekend’s last-chance meets.

Thirteen members of the Iowa men’s track and field team will travel to Iowa State or Notre Dame. Their individual goals, though, will vary.

For some, the last-chance meets will serve exactly what the meets’ name suggests — a final shot at qualifying for NCAAs.

This is the case for a handful of Iowa athletes, including those competing in the long jump, mile run, and the 4x400 meter relay.

Jeffery Herron made no secret what his intentions will be when he jumps in Ames.

“I’m trying to get to nationals,” he said.

The junior has made significant strides this season. He jumped 22 feet, 11 inches at the second meet of the year at home. He then posted a personal best leap of 24 feet, 7 inches at last weekend’s Big Ten meet, a performance good enough for third place.

“I had a good week of practice before Big Tens, and it showed,” Herron said. “I’m trying to replicate it again, put more things together before this meet to qualify for nationals.”

Sophomore Jeff Thode is also coming off a solid performance at the Big Ten meet and hopes to continue when he travels to Notre Dame to run in the mile.

Thode finished the mile last weekend in a school-record 4:02, the 30th-best mark in the country this season. He will likely have to break his own record again on Saturday if he hopes to run in College Station, Texas, in a week — a time under 4 minutes will most probably be needed to qualify.

The coaches decided earlier in the week to mix up the 4x400 meter relay team for this weekend.

Austin, who has already qualified for NCAAs in the 200-meter dash, will run the lead leg for a talented 4x400 meter relay team also consisting of Sowinski, Patrick Richards, and Steven Willey.

“We’ve been meaning to put him on a 4x4 earlier in the year, but we’ve always had something that would come up,” assistant coach Joey Woody said, noting some hamstring issues Austin had been running through earlier this season. “He’s ready to roll. I’ve seen it in practice with some of the workouts we’ve done, and obviously, what he’s done in competition with his other events shows he’s ready to put down a good time.”

Sowinski, an automatic qualifier in the 800 meters for the NCAAs, said Austin’s addition can only make the group better.

“Justin will probably be faster in getting us out in that first 200,” Sowinski said. “I think everyone is excited to see what he can do.”

While those athletes are hoping for one more indoor meet after this weekend, the coaches are looking for some of the sprinters to use the last-chance meet as a way to propel themselves into the outdoor season.

Woody said Zeke Sayon was able to use last year’s last chance meet as a springboard into a successful outdoor season. Sayon placed second in the 100 meters at the 2010 outdoor Big Ten meet.

Freshman Tevin Mincy is looking to do the same this year. Knowing his chances of qualifying for NCAAs are slim, he is hoping the experience will help him down the road.

“I’m just trying to get a personal record that I’m satisfied with,” he said. “I can get a great experience to see what it is like to run with these guys who are qualifying.”

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