Hawkeye harriers place ninth in Arkansas

BY BEN ROSS | OCTOBER 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa men's cross-country team traveled to Fayetteville, Ark., this past weekend to compete in the Chile Pepper Festival and came out with a solid performance.

The Hawkeyes placed ninth out of 32 teams at the 10-kilometer event. Junior all-American Jeff Thode led the way for the squad with a personal-best time of 30:12, which placed him 17th overall.

Junior Nick Holmes was the second Hawkeye to cross the finish line, placing 38th. Freshman Kevin Lewis got third for the Black and Gold, 51st overall. Evan Selsor, Nick Young, Jon Michael Brandt, Cameron Rieger, and Nikolai Mondragon rounded out the rest of the stat sheet for Iowa.

The No. 1-ranked team in the nation, Oklahoma State, placed first at the meet. The Cowboys were followed by No. 15 Arkansas, No. 3 Oklahoma, and Utah State.

Head cross-country coach Larry Wieczorek said he was proud of his team's performance and believes it's an important momentum builder as the team prepares for the Big Ten championships on Oct. 30 in Champaign, Ill.

"This weekend was really helpful coming from a momentum standpoint," Wieczorek said. "It was a really big confidence builder. Every guy on our team ran a better time through eight kilometers than he did at the Roy Griak Invitational [an 8-kilometer race] a few weeks ago. We made a big step, and our guys are in good spirits as we go into the Big Ten Championships."

The meet this past weekend was the first time Thode competed since the first week of the cross-country season on Sept. 2. because of physical rest and a family emergency.

Even though he waited more than six weeks between competitions, he said he was happy with his performance and he felt good about what he saw from his teammates. He said their performance bode well for Iowa prior to the championships.

"We did well in terms of getting ninth," the Schaumburg, Ill., native said. "Everybody displayed good pack running and stuck together. Personally, I felt 17th was respectable. I got a personal record in the 10K, and for not running for six weeks, I am definitely pleased with my performance. We've being making correct moves; I still think we can do well, [and] a top-five finish isn't unrealistic."

Depending on how well Iowa fares at the Big Ten championships, the squad could continue to the NCAA Midwest Regional in DeKalb, Ill., and the NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 19.

Although Iowa is an improbable team to make a run at the NCAA championship, junior Kevin Lewis said he believes this past weekend said a lot about the state the squad is in. He said he believes the Hawkeyes can still get a respectable finish in the Big Ten if they run as well in Illinois as they did in Arkansas.

"We ran together really well," the junior said. "Most of us were together for the first three-and-a-half miles. The momentum we gained is huge. Everyone ran better than he thought he would; as long as we keep doing what we've been doing in practice and bring our groove from practice to the race, it will all come together."

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