Iowa men track and field tunes up for Big Tens

BY BEN SCHUFF | MAY 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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Keaton Rickels is taking one less step in order for the Iowa men’s track and field team to take another step forward.

Rickels could be Iowa’s third point-scorer in the 400-meter hurdles at next weekend’s Big Ten championships. The sophomore worked on taking 14 steps through the first three hurdles in practice this week, as opposed to the 15 steps he had been taking.

“I think it’s really going to help speed up my race, especially [through] the first three hurdles,” he said. “Then I should be more comfortable coming through the next seven hurdles.”

Today, he’ll have his first and last competitive opportunity to perfect the new step pattern before the Big Tens. Rickels is one of eight Hawkeyes competing at Northern Iowa’s Messersmith Invitational. Field events start at 11 a.m. today, and the track events are scheduled to begin at noon at the Mark Messersmith Track and Field Complex. Coe College, Iowa Western, Western Illinois, and Northern Iowa will also compete.

Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek said this weekend’s meet will serve as a chance for some of the athletes to get work in before Big Tens on May 13-15.

“I think [this meet] is only important if somebody [needs the work],” he said. “At this stage of the game, we ought to be ready. But a few people could benefit from one last tune-up and get a race under their belts.

“I’d be OK if nobody competed this weekend, but individual coaches felt like some [guys] needed a competition.”

Patrick Richards is another one of those athletes who could benefit from today’s meet. The junior injured his left hamstring approximately a month ago at LSU. After trying to run through the injury, he didn’t compete at last weekend’s Drake Relays. He will run in the 200 and 400 meters today.

Richards said on Wednesday he is nervous about today’s meet, but a solid performance coupled with leaving Cedar Falls relatively healthy would be important heading into the Big Tens.

“We’ll see how this weekend goes,” he said. “It’s a confidence booster. I know if I run well at this meet, then I’ll run well next week.”

Fellow sprinter Justin Austin said the team needs Richards, saying his health is “very important” for the Hawkeyes to be successful next weekend. Richards scored in the 200, 400, and the 4x400-meter relay for Iowa at February’s indoor championships.

Austin will run in the 100 and 400 at UNI.

The throws group sent Nick Brayton to compete in the discus. He will try to build upon his season-best mark of 49.95 meters with a week to go before the conference meet.

“Last week, I feel I made pretty good strides at Drake as far as technique goes,” he said. “This [meet] is just another step toward what I want to have happen next week. A lot of it is just getting reps and getting that confidence back, staying in that competitive mode.”

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