Schedule gets long for track and field

BY BEN SCHUFF | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Jeff Thode would have to run more than 40,000 laps around the quarter-mile Cretzmeyer Track to cover the miles the Iowa track program will travel during a five-week stretch that ends April 17.

As ridiculous as that may sound, it goes to show just how much the Iowa men’s track and field team is traveling at the start of the outdoor season — 10,394 miles.

“We’re not traveling in a chartered jet that is picking is up [in Iowa City] and dropping us off [right at the meet],” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “Maybe people don’t realize you travel all day to go some place … so I think traveling can be wearing on the athletes.”

The 10,000-plus miles started with the NCAA indoor championships on March 11-12 in College Station, Texas. This weekend, most of the squad will travel to Baton Rouge, La., and follow that up with a trip next weekend to Tempe, Ariz.

Although Wieczorek said a third-consecutive weekend trip is “doubtful,” the schedule calls for the Hawkeyes to compete at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., on April 15-17.

Should the team not make the trip to California, it wouldn’t be the first time Wieczorek decided not to attend a meet on this year’s schedule. While head women’s coach Layne Anderson sent 11 of his athletes to Stanford this past weekend, Wieczorek decided to hold all of his athletes out of the Stanford Invitational.

Anderson said the 11 athletes who went to Stanford won’t make the trip to LSU this weekend.

“You don’t want to get to the end of the year and realize half our team is wiped out from travel,” he said.

Because of the unpredictable Iowa weather around this time, both the men’s and women’s teams are forced to look for meets in warmer climates when making their outdoor schedule.

“We’re looking for the weather first and foremost,” Anderson said. “Then, within the context of travel, we’re not doing unrealistic things as far as trying to get to some place that is a real logistical nightmare.”

Both head coaches said the tradeoff between location and competition level is something they must balance. Staying closer to Iowa early in the outdoor season normally means facing less talented teams.

But traveling hundreds of miles will give the Hawkeyes a chance to compete against some of the best teams in the country. On the men’s side, both Texas A&M and host LSU — which both rank in the top five nationally — will be at Saturday’s LSU Invitational.

“When we fly, we definitely feel it,” sophomore Ethan Holmes said. “When we’ve flown places, I have got into my race and just felt completely dead from travel before.”

While extra time isn’t always available on all trips, walking around other campuses and seeing other cities are opportunities sometimes available on longer trips when the team is waiting to fly back.

When Wieczorek traveled with Thode and Erik Sowinski during the indoor season to a meet in Seattle, the head coach said the three visited the famous Pike Place Fish Market and the original Starbucks.

Sowinski recalled a trip to New York during his freshman year that provided a unique experience — running inside Madison Square Garden.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was on a tiny track, maybe 150 meters. It was cool.”

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