Hawkeyes return from Drake with sprint medley title

BY BEN SCHUFF | MAY 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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DES MOINES — Four Hawkeyes jogged around the outside of the blue oval in Drake Stadium on April 30 carrying white flags with the words "Drake Relays Champion" on them.

Zeke Sayon, Justin Austin, Steven Willey, and Erik Sowinski were completing their victory lap at the Drake Relays — something no Iowa athlete achieved last year.

"I thought it was one of the best Drake Relays we've had in years," Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

Many Iowa athletes had solid performances in Des Moines. The Black and Gold foursome of Sayon, Austin, Willey, and Sowinski won the 1,600 sprint medley on April 30 at the Relays. The Hawkeyes also broke the school record in the 4x800-meter relay on April 29 with a time of 7:23.77, placing second.

The 4x400-meter relay, consisting of Willey, Sowinski, Ethan Holmes, and Chris Barton, posted a season-best 3:07.23 in the event. Iowa finished second behind Baylor, which holds the nation's second-fastest time this outdoor season.

"At Big Tens, we'll do pretty well, and regionals, we'll probably do well," Barton said. "But if we go to nationals, we have got to step up our game a little bit."

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The Big Ten championships are set to take place in Iowa City on May 13-15. With a number of Big Ten schools competing at the Drake Relays, it appears some Hawkeyes stack up well against their conference foes.

Despite finishing behind Baylor, the Hawkeyes placed ahead of Ohio State (third) and Illinois (seventh) at the Drake Relays.

Wieczorek said he was again impressed by the performances of Sowinski and sophomore Jeff Thode.

"Sowinski was simply sensational," he said.

Sowinski ran the anchor leg in both the sprint medley and the record-breaking 4x800 team.

Thode placed second in the 1,500-meter race after running an outstanding mile leg in the distance medley relay. Wieczorek said Thode became "a hero" for the Hawkeye fans with his effort at the Relays.

Matt Byers said he wasn't pleased with his throws in the javelin, but he continued to show that he has a strong hold on the top spot in the Big Ten. While Byers' best throw at Drake placed him fourth overall, he was the top finisher among Big Ten athletes.

Also throwing at Drake were Wisconsin's Rob Dehn and Derek Steinbach and Ohio State's William Lauricella, who rank second, third, and fourth in the Big Ten. Byers' best mark was over 18 feet better than that of Steinbach's, who placed ninth at Drake.

The throws group also got a solid effort from Matt Banse in the hammer. The sophomore threw a personal-best of 199 feet, 2 1/2 inches.

"[The personal best] was only [by] 3 inches, but I'll take it," Banse said. "That's just a stride toward what I want to be throwing in two weeks [at Big Tens]. I think it's a great way to end this part and go into the championships."

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