Men's track underclassmen making strides

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Sophomore Keaton Rickels and freshman Tevin Mincy won their respective events last weekend at the Jim Duncan Invitational in Des Moines.

And while neither are top performers in their groups, the Hawkeyes are hopeful the results are a sign of continued development.

Rickels won the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 53.80 seconds. Although Iowa's other two 400-meter hurdlers, D'Juan Richardson and Ethan Holmes, were running against better competition in Auburn, Ala., Rickels battled through blustery and cold weather conditions on his way to first place.

Mincy posted a personal-best 10.66 seconds in the 100 meters. After stumbling out of the blocks, he gathered himself behind a strong tailwind — his heat took place with a 4.0 meter per second tailwind — and finished 0.21 seconds ahead of Buena Vista's Eric Bertelsen.

"I don't know if it was the wind or if it was me, but I just got back in stride really well and pulled away and stayed ahead," Mincy said. "Regardless of the wind, I'd say it was one of my best meets."

Both Rickels and Mincy appear to have a shot at scoring points once the Big Ten championships roll around on May 13-15. Rickels' season-best 400-meter hurdles time of 53.42 ranks eighth in the Big Ten. An eighth-place finish would notch one point for Iowa, but more importantly, Rickels would likely be the third point scorer in the event. Richardson and Holmes currently hold the conference's fastest and third-fastest times.

"[The 400-meter hurdles] is an event we expect to always have at least two [athletes in the finals at the Big Ten championships]," assistant coach Joey Woody said. "But we want to send a statement that we're a big 400-hurdles school, and my goal is to always have three athletes qualify for the finals at the Big Ten meet."

After battling through a nagging left hamstring injury during the indoor season, Rickels is running more confidently in the outdoor season, Woody said.

The increased confidence has been noticed by others in the Black and Gold. Jordan Mullen, who runs the 110-meter hurdles, has seen a big difference from Rickels' freshman year.

"He's just running a lot looser," Mullen said. "Last year, he looked so stressed out on the track and trying too hard to make things happen in the hurdles. This year, he looks a lot more smooth."

In a similar fashion to Rickels, Mincy is benefiting from training every day with some of Big Ten's top sprinters. Among those are Justin Austin, Paul Chaney Jr., and Zeke Sayon, who all have posted top-nine times in the 100 meters thus far. Mincy's time last weekend is tied for 11th best in conference.

The 19-year-old said he is focused on getting back on the 4x100 meter relay team, an event he ran in at the LSU Invitational and the Sun Angel Classic. The Altoona, Iowa, native ran the lead leg at the Sun Angel Classic in a group that posted the third-fastest time in school history.

Regardless of the event, head coach Larry Wieczorek said he has plenty of examples to follow.

"Tevin is in a group of real good guys," he said. "That's helping him, having one of the best groups of sprinters we've ever had. I think athletes can develop in groups, so Tevin might be better because of the group than if he were here by himself as the lead guy."

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