Runners will look to teamwork in race

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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Even though most people might not think cross-country is a team-oriented sport, the Iowa men's cross-country team will have to work as a collective unit today to get its second-straight win.

The Hawkeyes will compete for the second time this season today at the annual Iowa Invitational meet at the Ashton Cross-Country Course. The men's and women's teams will both race against Northern Iowa.

Iowa fared well in its previous meet, on Sept. 2 against Illinois State; junior All-American Jeff Thode stole the show and placed first in the 6-kilometer event.

The Hawkeyes will have to find another teammate to step up to the competition this week, however, because Thode will be held out of competition in order to rest his legs for next week's Roy Grail Invitational in Minneapolis.

Sophomore runner Jon Michael Brandt said he still feels confident, even though the team will be without its best runner. He believes it will benefit the squad down the road and sees it as an opportunity for everyone on the team to step up.

"It's early in the season, and I really think [Thode sitting out] will benefit the team," the Winona, Minn., native said. "As a team, it will make everyone step up and try to pick up the slack. Obviously, we would like him out there, but it's best for the team this way."

Thode left some pretty big shoes to fill. The junior has finished first in 12 of his last 13 races, including an eight-race winning streak.

The lone senior on the Iowa team, Chase Kadlec, said he believes he can fill the role left by Thode and lead the team to a victory. This will be Kadlec's first meet of the season — he was held out of the previous race because of an injury. He has recovered, and he said he will carry a positive attitude into today's competition.

"I feel good," Kadlec said. "I have been icing every day, working out, training, and staying motivated. I feel relaxed; everyone is pretty motivated, even though it's not really a sport to get motivated for. Hopefully, my actions will just lead by example … We just have to stay calm and not overthink it."

The Black and Gold have had an extra week to prepare for the Panthers, and head coach Larry Wieczorek said he liked what he saw out of his runners during that time.

"As the season progresses, each week seems to get a little bit tougher," the 25th-year coach said. "We've had a little more time to train, and we have made a lot of progress since being here [at the beginning of the season], moving up to the full 8-kilometer distance."

Wieczorek said that progress played a role in his decision to keep Thode out of the race; according to the coach, the team's training and positive attitudes are encouraging enough that he doesn't feel he needs his star runner this week.

"Thode is going to have to run a lot of races, so we try not to run him as much," he said. "This will give him a chance to train, and gives other guys a chance to step up and help out the pack. This seemed like a good one to leave him out of, and I'm optimistic it will pay off."

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