Hawkeyes ready for NCAA Track and Field Championships

BY BEN SCHUFF | JUNE 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men’s track and field team will try to cap off a magical year when it starts competition today in Des Moines at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships.

The action starts tonight, when Erik Sowinski and Ethan Holmes will compete in the semifinals of the 800 meters and 400-meter hurdles, respectively.

Iowa will compete in seven events in Des Moines — in last season’s NCAA meet, the Hawkeyes competed in five.

“That’s a pretty good number for us,” Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

The Hawkeyes would like to post a similar improvement in how they finish. As of now, the best result in school history was seventh-place overall in 1967, when Wieczorek was an athlete on the squad.

“[Assistant] coach [Joey] Woody has been talking about placing top four overall,” Sowinski, who will also compete in the 4x400-meter relay, said last week. “But if we can finish in the top 10, that would be really good.”

The push for that top-10 finish will be led by Sowinski and the rest of the Hawkeyes’ 4x400 relay team, which will return to the national stage after placing seventh at last year’s NCAAs.

The relay team has a history of saving its most impressive performances for the biggest meets of the year. Last season, the Hawkeyes ran their best time in the NCAA meet, and this year’s top mark came at the Big Ten championships. The foursome of Holmes, Chris Barton, Sowinski, and Steven Willey entered the meet’s final event knowing they had to beat Minnesota’s 4x400 relay to win the team title, and they did just that by finishing in 3:06.70.

“I think last year, they probably came in more as an underdog,” Wieczorek said. “This year, there are higher expectations of them.”

Which four Hawkeyes will compete in Des Moines is still uncertain, though. Patrick Richards, who ran the lead-leg of the fourth-place 4x400 at the indoor national championships earlier this year, figures to be in the mix, but Sowinski said the team probably won’t decide who will run until Thursday.

“We’ll just all have to think business,” Holmes said.

That mantra was repeated by the rest of the Hawkeyes, some of whom — such as triple-jumper Troy Doris — enter the national meet with some of the best marks in the country in their respective events.

Doris holds the country’s fifth-longest jump during the outdoor season at 53, 3 3/4. That mark came at the West Regional, in which he took first place on May 28, and the first-year Hawkeye will look to add a NCAA championship to his résumé when he jumps in Drake Stadium. The junior from Bollingbrook, Ill., won two junior-college national championships in the triple jump at the College of DuPage (Illinois) before coming to Iowa.

“It was good to kind of clear out the West Region,” Doris said. His toughest competition in Des Moines will likely come from a pair of Florida , he said.

“At this point, I just have to run and jump like I know how,” he said. “I have to go all-out and leave nothing behind.”

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