Sowinski just misses at NCAAs

BY BEN SCHUFF | JUNE 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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DES MOINES — Erik Sowinski just didn’t get the right race.

The Iowa junior placed fifth in his heat Wednesday night at the NCAA track and field championships, failing to move onto the finals of the 800 meters.

The middle-distance runner ran in the third heat and finished 15th overall with a personal-best time of 1:47.83.

Following an incredibly fast second heat — the heat’s fourth-place time of 1:46.29 would’ve ranked fifth nationally entering the meet — Sowinski’s heat started with a much slower pace than he would’ve liked.

And the slow pace ended up hurting him in the end.

“The race got out a lot slower than I thought it was going to,” he said. “I didn’t really want to take the lead from the get-go.”

Knowing the times of the first two heats, it seemed apparent the only qualifiers from the last heat would be the automatic spots given to the top two finishers.

“He’s been in races like that before,” assistant coach Joey Woody said. “But you’re in a situation where you’re trying to be top two because everyone is going to run a slower time … they were all just trying to get the top two and slow it down to do whatever they could to conserve energy [for the end].”

Sowinski’s strategy entering the race was to let someone else take the lead early on, but he found himself out in front as he glanced over his left shoulder a couple times during the race’s second 100 meters.

Going into the meet, Woody said he thought not leading the pack would benefit his athlete.
Unfortunately, that situation didn’t present itself.

“[The second heat] ran so fast, I think it kind of scared that last [group],” Woody said. “Nobody wanted to take the lead, so it kind of slowed the pace down right away.

“He just hasn’t had a race where the pace is fast, and he doesn’t have to lead. If he’s in that second heat, I think he can run 1:46 flat and be right in the mix. But he just happened to get a different heat.”

Sowinski was able to move toward the middle of the pack after the 300-meter mark of the race. He looked strong as he made a move on the outside and back into second place halfway through the race.

But the Waukesha, Wis., native faded at the end and was passed twice in the last quarter of the race.
“I just didn’t have the kick to finish with the bigger guys,” Sowinski said.

Despite being disappointed about the finish, Sowinski remained relatively happy with his personal-record time — which, incidentally, was very close to the school record of 1:47.64.

Iowa head coach Larry Wieczorek recognized the talent level Sowinski faced at the national stage.

“We coaches were just talking after the race, when you get to this level … how tough it is,” Wieczorek said. “But he had a personal best, he’s only a junior, and last year he didn’t make it here to the semifinals. We’ll be happy thinking there is next year for him.”

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