NCAAs a chance to improve national reputation for track and field

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Troy Doris knew he would be there.

“Definitely” was his response when asked if at the beginning of the season he thought he would be in College Station, Texas, today and Saturday.

“I knew I had to take slow steps,” said Doris, who takes the nation’s fifth-best triple jump mark with him to the NCAA indoor championships. “I had to take my time, but why not me?”

The junior-college transfer has the performance to back it up. He has succeeded at previous levels — he was a two-time junior-college champion triple jumper at the College of DuPage.

Now, he is one of eight members of the Iowa men’s track and field team who will compete today and Saturday in College Station.

In total, the eight athletes will compete in six events — Justin Austin in the 200, Erik Sowinski in the 800, Jeff Thode in the mile, Jordan Mullen in the 60-meter hurdles, Doris in the triple jump and the 4x400 meter relay.

The number of athletes going to nationals is an accomplishment in its own right. But as expected, the Hawks aren’t content with simply going. Coming back to Iowa City with hardware in hand is the objective.

“My goal is to go there and run like winners,” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “Let’s not be happy and content with making nationals, but go there and score points.”

The last Hawkeye to go to NCAAs was John Hickey in 2009. Wieczorek recognized the significance in sending eight athletes, considering the program didn’t send anyone last indoor season.

“Having a presence, we’re on that national scene,” he said. “When we go out to recruit, we hope that will help us continue to get good athletes so we can get those top-notch athletes to run for the Hawkeyes.”

Iowa has an immediate chance to keep improving the program’s reputation on the national level as several athletes have a legitimate shot at placing first in Texas.

The 4x400 meter relay team’s season-best time of 3:06.66 trails Arkansas’ top time by roughly a second and a half. The relay finished seventh at last year’s outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore.

“Running at nationals gave us championship experience,” relay member Steven Willey said. “Now, we’re seeing them again, and it takes away the shock and awe of seeing top teams.”

Willey said the key will be getting out fast and taking the lead in the first 200 meters of each leg. In doing so, it would give them the advantage of running in the inside lane.

Erik Sowinski, another member of the relay team, said handoffs are another area where a couple seconds could be dropped.

Sowinski will also compete in the 800 meters. While the junior captain boasts the 14th-best time in the nation at 1:47.98, it trails Oregon’s No. 1 seeded Elijah Greer’s mark by less than a second.

“I just want to go in there and make finals,” Sowinski said. “If you do that, anything can happen.”

Willey noted that some of the team went and watched last year’s indoor championships in Fayetteville, Ark. This time around, the senior is excited to be doing more than just watching from the stands.

“It’s unique,” he said. “It’s loud, it’s fun. It’s just a good environment.”

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