Men’s cross country shakes off rust

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa’s men’s cross-country team came out hot in its first meet of the season, defeating a comparably slow Illinois State squad, 18-39.

Iowa’s runners had to compete against the weather as well — a temperature of 92 degrees was recorded at the Ashton Cross-Country Course on Sept. 2.

While it appeared many of the spectators were sweating just as much as the athletes, Iowa’s runners were still able to post solid times, with junior All-American Jeff Thode leading the way for the Hawkeyes. Thode posted a time of 19:01.20, well ahead of second-place finisher Kevin Lewis’ 19:19.20 time in the 6-kilometer event.

“I feel pretty good about my performance,” Thode said. “[It was] better than expected, with the weather and all.”

The junior from Schaumburg, Ill., said the sweltering weather was an unexpected challenge.

“The heat affects my running a lot,” he said. “I’m not used to running at this temperature — I always run in cooler weather. I try to run in the mornings as much as possible.”

Thode was one of several Hawkeyes to overcome the heat, and the leaderboard was dotted with Black and Gold.

Junior Nick Holmes was able to battle back from some nagging ankle injuries to take third place, and freshman Evan Selsor took fifth. Sophomore Jon Michael Brandt took seventh, and Ben Witt, Cameron Rieger, and Nikolai Mondragon finished in 10th, 11th, and 12th, respectively.

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said he was very pleased with his squad’s performance and thinks it was a good start to what he calls a “learning year” for his runners.

“We have a lot of new faces competing together — [we’re] trying to build and become a team,” he said. “I thought they executed real well, they worked together real well. It was the first competition without a lot of veterans, so you’re trying to see what you have and if they can work together. It was a good race we can build on.”

The meet also marked the return of Holmes, who has been in and out of competition while battling injuries for the past three years. He was able to get back into running form over the summer, and he is optimistic about the season despite his injury-riddled history.

“I’ve had shin problems since January,” the Peoria, Ill., native said. “I’ve basically been injured for three years here. It’s been rough, but I’ve been building my strength and working with the sprint coach, and it’s coming along. The injuries feel good right now. I’m only running four days a week now, so once I start doing seven, I can’t even imagine what’s going to happen.”

Holmes said the heat was just another obstacle but said he was pleased with how both he and his teammates were able to finish the meet strong.

“During the middle of that race, I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘Aw man, if the season is like this, I’m screwed.’ Then, all of a sudden, I realized I’m in a lot better shape than this … [and] I felt great.

“It was great finish for us, and I’m really happy for the team.”

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