Nick Holmes running off of more than potential

BY BEN ROSS | SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 7:20 AM

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Nick Holmes knows pain.

He has sat out two cross-country seasons because of injuries, and he has had to watch his team compete in his absence. This past summer, Holmes stayed in Iowa City to undergo extensive rehabilitation just to be ready for this season.

Now, he is showing everyone what he is capable of.

In his first meet since his freshman year, the junior placed third at the Iowa Open on Sept. 2 against Illinois State.

Holmes officially placed second in the following meet, on Sept. 16 against Northern Iowa — but could have been first if it not for an act of sportsmanship in which he allowed a freshman teammate to finish in front of him.

Then came the stiffest competition of the year, the Roy Griak Invitational. The meet, held in St. Paul, Minn., featured top teams such as No. 9 Portland, No. 10 North Carolina State, and No. 24 Minnesota. Iowa didn't fare especially well as a team — the Hawkeyes placed 18th out of 24 teams — but Holmes may have had the best run of his career. He finished 20th overall in a field of more than 300 runners.

And while athletes rarely have the opportunity to come back to 100 percent health after battling injuries, sophomore runner and teammate Jon Michael Brandt said he isn't startled by the comeback Holmes has made thus far.

"I'm not surprised," Brandt said. "Nick is really tough, and he always gives 110 percent. Even during his rehab exercises, he's breathing harder and sweating more than us who just finished running. To see these results [now that] he's healthy doesn't shock me in the least bit."

Holmes was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but his lack of participation in his first two years threatened to label the native of Peoria, Ill., as more of a disappointment than a top recruit.

Now, Holmes has used his performances to quell any doubts people had about him and his running.

Holmes' success can't just be attributed to the raw talent finally being unleashed after earning a clean bill of health. He said he's a better runner because of all the measures he took during rehabilitation.

A combination of biking, swimming, and running on a special treadmill called an Alter-G machine all were a part of his rehab regimen.

"[The rehab] will definitely help me for the rest of my season and career here at Iowa," Holmes said. "It has made me a smarter runner; I've gotten so many aspects of fitness due to my cross-training. I was in 10-K shape even when I was injured, so it's nice to show what I can do when I go out and compete."

Senior runner Chase Kadlec, who has known Holmes since the junior first set foot on campus, said the maturity his teammate has gained may be another contributing factor to his success as of late.

"Nick has grown more patient," Kadlec said. "As a freshman, he was ready to go and very enthusiastic. These years, he's becoming more patient and learning that how you train reflects how fast you recover."

The Hawkeyes now have a few weeks to train before their next competition, at the Panorama Farms Invitational on Oct. 14 in Charlottesville, Va. Holmes said that gives him and the rest of the squad time to grow as a team and further their success.

"Our team is building forward from here," he said. "I'm looking to two weeks until competition. I have to stay mentally focused and continue cross-training, even though it's boring. I just have to keep my head up and let my faith keep me going."

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