Work left before Big Tens for men's track and field

BY BEN SCHUFF | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Despite the success the Iowa men's track and field team achieved at the 102nd Drake Relays, last weekend proved one thing for the Hawkeyes: There is still work to be done.

"It's amazing that you can have the highlights that we [had at Drake] and still feel mixed emotions about the weekend," Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

The main source for Wieczorek's "mixed emotions" is the injury suffered by Jordan Mullen on April 29. Mullen is day-to-day with a hip flexor sustained while running the third leg of the 4x200 relay at the Drake Relays.

The sophomore qualified for the finals of the 110-meter hurdles earlier on April 29 but did not compete after the 4x200.

Mullen is the team's leading 110 hurdler, and his season-best time of 13.79 ranks second in the Big Ten and 15th nationally.

Iowa assistant coach Joey Woody said, "It's too soon to tell" whether Mullen will be back by the Big Ten championships, but he is "optimistic." Iowa will host the event on May 13-15.

Another area of concern for Wieczorek — though not injury-related — is in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. After running the event in 9:04.60 at the Drake Relays last year, Mark Battista crossed the finish line in 9:20.63 last weekend.

"[The time] says it all right there," Wieczorek said. "We've got expectations of him, and he needs to perform like he's performed in the past or maybe just a little bit better."

What is also troubling for the Hawkeyes is who finished ahead of their senior runner. Five Big Ten runners competed in the event last weekend in Des Moines, and Battista finished ahead of only one of them. While the three conference runners who finished ahead of Battista have all run under nine minutes in the event this season, he was still frustrated with the results.

Battista, who finished 13th at last year's Big Ten outdoor championships, holds the 19th-best conference time this year.

"I just got to compete well. I've been working real hard but just not carrying it over to the meets as much [as I'd like]," he said, noting how physical the steeplechase was at Drake. "I know I'm running out of time here, and I keep saying, 'It's going to come, it's going to come.' I've got to eventually force it here."

Though not completely to where Scott Cappos would like them to be, the throws coach said Drake was a step in the right direction for his group.

Ryan Lamparek and Nick Brayton placed eighth and 11th overall in the discus, but second and third among the seven Big Ten throwers who competed.

"We beat some pretty good Big Ten guys head-to-head, so overall, I'm pleased with the progress we made," Cappos said. "I think that's always important when you can beat the good competition in your conference. That was one of the things we went for and, overall, I think we did a real good job of that."

He said the shot put is still behind. The Hawkeyes are going to throw lighter shots in practice to improve their speed in the ring.

Matt Banse placed a disappointing 16th at Drake in the shot put. He said he is really looking forward to the new training after feeling like he did everything right at Drake but didn't get the distance.

"You feel like you're doing everything right to have a [personal best], and then you watch it land 52 feet away," said Banse, whose personal record is just under 57 feet. "I'd rather be punched in the face numerous times than have that happen. It's just like there's a hole in the gut."

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