Hawkeyes track and field heads to Tempe

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s track and field team will continue its lengthy travels this weekend when the squad heads to Arizona State for the 32nd-annual Sun Angel Classic.

This marks the fourth-straight year the Hawkeyes will make the roughly 1,500-mile trek to the desert. Four top-25 teams are set to compete this weekend in Tempe, Ariz.: No. 11 Minnesota, No. 15 BYU, No. 17 Oklahoma, and No. 18 Virginia Tech. Iowa will be one of four Big Ten schools at the meet, along with Michigan State and Purdue.

“Generally speaking, anytime we get on an airplane, we’re going someplace where we think we can do something significant against tough competition,” head coach Larry Wieczorek said. “The Sun Angel is one of the traditional meets in the country where a lot of people come to perform at a high level.”

The “something significant” Wieczorek discussed includes making a trend of the team’s scoring patterns from a week ago. At last weekend’s LSU Invitational, Iowa had at least two athletes finish in the top-eight in eight events. That includes three top-eight finishes in the 800 meters, 110-meter hurdles, and the 400-meter hurdles.

“We talked about that after the meet, the fact we can score points like that,” Wieczorek said. “Wherever we can get them, we don’t care. But where we have strength like that, it certainly helps the process.”

Among the country’s elite athletes at the Sun Angel will be the Black and Gold’s Matt Byers. Last year’s conference champion in the javelin, the sophomore broke the Big Ten record on his first throw of the outdoor season with a toss of 245 feet, 8 inches at last weekend’s meet. That throw ranks third in the country.

While throwing coach Scott Cappos expected improvement from Byers’, he said he needed to hear the distance a second time to believe it.

“It was hard to tell how far it was,” Cappos said. “I thought it looked pretty good, and then they measured it [245 feet, 8 inches], and I wanted to make sure maybe I didn’t mishear it.”

One of the Hawkeyes joining Byers this weekend will be Justin Austin; the sprinter missed the LSU meet because of a nagging injury to his left quadriceps.

The Hawkeyes are hopeful Austin will join Byers as one of the country’s elite track and field athletes. The Milwaukee native placed fifth in the 200 meters at the NCAA indoor championships in March. The sophomore is slated to run in the 100-meter dash premier, the 4x100-meter relay, and the 4x400-meter relay.

The relay groups will be another area worthy of extra attention this weekend. Wieczorek and Company decided early in the week to send three 4x4 groups to the Sun Angel this weekend. The “A” foursome consists of Erik Sowinski, Patrick Richards, Chris Barton, and Steven Willey, all of whom were All-Americans in the event last year. Austin is listed on the heat sheets in the “B” group with Paul Chaney Jr., D’Juan Richardson, and Ethan Holmes.

As was expected heading into the outdoor season, the spots on the 4x1 have been hotly contested through the first few weeks of the season. This weekend’s quartet includes Chaney, Tevin Mincy, and Zeke Sayon — who all ran the event at LSU — with Austin running in place of Richards, who ran the event in Baton Rouge.

Assistant coach Joey Woody was hopeful at Wednesday’s practice that the meet will provide an opportunity to keep competition within the team strong.

“I hope it’s similar to the 4x4, where we always have two or three guys who can jump in there,” he said about the 4x1 relay. “Especially with sprinters, there are always things that come up injury-wise, so you hope things are like with [Richards], where you can throw him and still run a pretty decent time.”

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