Sophomore hurdler gaining confidence

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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Last spring, Ethan Holmes was hurting.

Late in the outdoor track and field season, the then-freshman was ailing from a stress fracture on the left side of his pelvis. He started noticing the pain around the time of the Big Ten championships.

If the injury affected him, it didn’t show. Holmes posted a personal-best time of 14.49 in the 110-meter hurdles in the 2010 conference meet.

But as the season was coming to a close and he advanced to the first round of the NCAAs, the pain became too much.

“It hurt to walk. It hurt to roll over in bed,” he said. “It pretty much hurt all the time. It even hurt just laughing.”

Holmes did very little laughing, however — he spent the better part of a month bedridden at the beginning of summer to start recovery.

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“It really had me down in the dumps because the coaches had recruited me to come here and do big things, and I felt like I was letting them down, letting me down,” the native of Clinton said. “It was a really depressing time.”

It wasn’t until about mid-July last summer that Holmes was able to begin his rehab by swimming in a pool inside the Jacobson Athletics Building. He finished his summer by continuing rehab in Iowa City.

“That was the biggest difference,” said assistant coach Joey Woody, who coaches Holmes in the hurdles. “If he hadn’t done that, we would’ve been pretty far behind in our training at the beginning of the year, and he probably wouldn’t have had the same indoor season he had this year.”

The indoor season Woody referred to was highlighted by Holmes’ recognition as an All-American after being a member of the 4x400 meter relay group that placed fourth at the indoor NCAAs.

Holmes also had meets during the indoor season that Woody said were “turning points in his career.” At Arkansas, he ran his first sub-48 second 400 meters. He ended the season with a personal-best 400 time of 47.85 at the Last Chance qualifier at Iowa State.

At the first meet of the outdoor season last weekend at the LSU Invitational, head coach Larry Wieczorek said Holmes “picked up right where he left off in the indoor season.” The 20-year-old placed first in the 400-meter hurdles, an event in which the Hawkeyes lost last year’s Big Ten champion Ray Varner to graduation. His time of 51.85 seconds was also better than any time Holmes posted throughout all of last outdoor season.

He also placed sixth in the 110-meter hurdles and his 4x4 group crossed the finish line in fourth at the LSU meet.

Holmes said he has gone into meets this year, including nationals, as if “I’m running scared, like something is chasing me, like I’m scared for my life.”

Running scared has turned nerves into results. And the now healthy runner is gaining confidence because of it.

“Last year going into races, I would kind of grade myself at a lower level than everybody whom I was racing against,” Holmes said. “[This weekend,] I wasn’t nervous before any of my races. It’s a really good sign when you can go into a race and have confidence that you’re going to go out and compete to the best of your ability.”

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