Teamwork pays off big for Hawkeye runners

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Last week, head men's cross-country coach Larry Wieczorek stressed that his runners would need to display teamwork to come out with a win against Northern Iowa.

That's what he got.

The Hawkeyes displayed excellent pack-running throughout the race, and the top-six finishers at the Ashton Cross-Country Course on Sept. 18 wore Black and Gold.

Freshman Kevin Lewis earned his first-ever top finish as a Hawkeye, recording a time of 25:31.70 in the 8-kilometer event. Nick Holmes was just a tenth of a second behind his teammate, posting a time of 25:31.80. Jon Michael Brandt, Evan Selsor, Ben Witt, and Cameron Rieger took spots three through six for Iowa.

The highest finisher from Northern Iowa was junior Brett Egan, who finished seventh in 26:38.90, and he was followed by Panther Aaron Vosberg's 26:40.80.

The ninth and 10th spots were occupied by more Hawkeyes. Nick Young (26:42.80) and Chase Kadlec (26:56.90) rounded out the top 10.

Closing in on the last the 1,000 meters, the race was neck and neck between Holmes and Lewis. Neither runner seemed to want to make a move up to the front spot, so the duo slapped palms and crossed the line together in an example of the teamwork Wieczorek preached to his runners all week leading up to the race.

"That was good sportsmanship," the 25-year head coach said. "They were way out front, there was no sense to beat each other up. [It was like they said], 'Hey, let's put those two Iowa shirts right together.' It is a nice thing to see."

Holmes, who has been recovering from a myriad of injuries dating back to sophomore year, appears to be on his way to a full recovery. He has finished in the top three in the past two races.

"It's coming along," Holmes said. "I'm getting stronger, doing more strength work, and running more miles; I had my highest [week of] mileage in the last two years last week, so it's coming together."

He said the Hawks will have a tougher time placing in the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis on Sept. 24, however — Iowa will race against some of the top teams in the country in the Twin Cities. The junior said the upcoming competition played a role in why the two Hawkeyes decided to save a little energy and finish the race in the fashion they did.

"We were together the whole time," he said. "Coming with a quarter to go at the end of the stretch, I looked at over at him and asked him, 'Do you want to go or do you want to stay — or do you just want to walk it in together?' We both could have gone, but it wasn't necessary."

Lewis said he isn't nervous about the Griak Invitational, even though the race will feature the stiffest competition he has seen in his short career.

Instead, he said he just wants to focus in improving his time.

"Hopefully, I can just drop my time down for next week," the Ottumwa, Iowa, native said. "I want to get under 25 minutes for the 8-kilometer, so I only have 31 seconds to go."

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