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Big Ten Indoors: Men's track needs solid performance at conference meet

BY ELDON GIANNAKOUROS | FEBRUARY 24, 2012 6:30 AM

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The climax of the indoor men's track season has arrived.

The Big Ten indoor meet will begin tonight and continue through the weekend in Lincoln, Neb., and the Hawkeyes hope to make a statement as they enter competition as the defending conference outdoor champions.

"The Big Ten indoor championships is always a key meet for us to build toward outdoors," assistant coach Joey Woody said. "One of the biggest signs of us having a champion-level Big Ten outdoor team, as we did last year, is what we do at the indoor championships."

Woody said the Hawkeyes — especially All-Americans Erik Sowinski, Troy Doris, Jeff Thode, and Justin Austin — will have to step up and continue to provide explosive performances in order to stay in contention at the championships.

But the Hawkeyes will also need to make some changes in an area in which they haven't been dominant in the past. No Iowa thrower scored at last year's indoor championships; seniors Matt Banse and Ryan Lamparek plan to walk into the throwing circle and change that this weekend.

"We're going to have to really step up because in order to [win a Big Ten championship], you have to have scorers in every event," Banse said. "You can't have lapses anywhere."

Banse has had a breakthrough season, but fouled out last weekend at the Iowa Invitational. It was a reality check in a season that has seen him top both school records and his own expectations.

"It was a humbling experience. It showed I can still have bad meets even though in the weeks before, I was doing so well," he said. "It kind of brought me back down to ground level and gave me stuff to work on in practice this week."

With that experience behind him, he is confident he'll find the distances he needs this weekend.

"He came up to me right afterwards and said, 'I fouled out, but better this weekend than next weekend,' " coach Larry Wieczorek said. "He's been throwing well, and he said he's got a few things to work on in practice, but he reassured me he's going to be fine for the Big Ten championships."

The looming national championships are another change athletes will have to avoid as they try to keep their focus on the Big Ten meet. Thode has yet to qualify for the NCAA indoors, and although he'll compete in an ideal field for a qualifying time this weekend, he'll have to measure his efforts as he increases his event load for the sake of the team.

"I'm running every race but the 3 kilometer; I'm pretty much repeating the volume I put up last year," he said. "I'll try to go for first in the mile and just stay competitive, depending on where we are place-wise with the rest of the races."

Thode didn't qualify for nationals last year until his final opportunity at a last-chance meet, and he's preparing himself for that possibility with just two meets remaining.

"Honestly, we're just going to play it like last year," he said. "Wait until the last meet of the year — the last-chance meet — and hope."


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