800 runner's wait ends this weekend

BY BEN SCHUFF | MAY 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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Adam Hairston planned for this coming weekend more than a year in advance.

Knowing the Iowa men's track and field team would return many of its key pieces, the now fifth-year senior didn't want to miss out when the Hawkeyes hosted the Big Ten outdoor track and field championships.

So after the conclusion of 2010 indoor season, he redshirted the outdoor season with the sole intention of running on the Cretzmeyer Track at this year's Big Tens.

"I figured [having a good team] — combined with the fact that I needed to stay here anyway [for school] — and the fact that we were hosting Big Tens in Iowa City, it just seemed like an opportunity I couldn't really pass up," Hairston said. "It's like the stars are aligning."

While the Cedar Rapids native didn't grow up an Iowa fan, he had Hawkeyes all around him. His father, John, played basketball at Iowa under Lute Olson in the mid-70s. His uncle, Gordon Beecham, ran track at Iowa in the '80s and ran for the 4x100-meter relay that still holds the school record. Another uncle, Lew Montgomery, played football for Hayden Fry in the late-80s and early '90s.

"I had Hawkeyes, I guess, in my blood," he said.

Hairston came to Iowa set to run cross-country and longer distance races in track. But after working with assistant coach Joey Woody his freshman year, he started running the 800 meters.

It wasn't the first time the two worked together. Woody trained Hairston while he was in high school at a sports-performance facility in Cedar Rapids. Based on those experiences, Woody knew Hairston had the speed to make the transition.

"Once he got here, he struggled a little bit in cross-country, which most freshmen do," Woody said. "At that time, the 800 was really weak in the conference. I felt like, 'Just get him some success.' It didn't matter what event it was in, but just to get him some success so he can build on that."

Hairston placed eighth in the 800 as a freshman at the indoor conference championships, scoring a point for the Hawkeyes.

During the following outdoor season, he broke 1:50 in the event.

"[Breaking 1:50 as a freshman] is really impressive," Woody said. "At that point, we knew we had something who was going to be maybe a star in that event."

Over the course of his sophomore and junior years, he placed second or third at all four of the conference championship meets.

At the indoor Last Chance meet his sophomore year, he broke the school record in the 800 with a time of 1:49.63. The current record holder is junior Erik Sowinski, someone who Hairston has built a very good friendship with during the past three years.

Hairston was Sowinski's host when he came on his visit in high school.

"Adam was one of the main reasons why I came here," Sowinski said. "The determination to want to come back for a fifth year to be able to compete at home, I just think it says a lot about his character."

While Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek raved about his dedication to the program, he also praised Hairston's versatility as a runner.

"He'd probably contend for the steeplechase championship if he were running the steeplechase," Wieczorek said.

Hairston said it took him a couple of meets this year to finally run a complete race after sitting out all of the indoor season. He won the 800 at the War Eagle Invitational on April 16.

Though he hopes his season continues all the way to nationals, Hairston is trying to soak up every last bit of being a Hawkeye.

"I think it will definitely [be emotional]," he said. "I see these guys every day, and they're my teammates, but besides that, they're some of my best friends."

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