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Hawkeye track's Herron trying to define legacy

BY ELDON GIANNAKOUROS | FEBRUARY 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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Senior jumper Jeff Herron's career with the Iowa men's track team is winding down, but it isn't yet clear which of his accomplishments Hawkeye fans will remember him for.

Some will remember him for his leaps into a pit for official times that showed his growing skill.

Others may remember him for jumps like his last-ditch dive across the finish line in the 300-meter dash at this year's Black and Gold intra-squad meet. The latter leap showed his capacity to push himself and his teammates on to greater things, head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

"He's a guy that has long jumped for us and high jumped for us, and his attitude inspires everybody," Wieczorek said.

Herron is a jumper through and through, but decided to test the water against Division-I runners when his coaches signed him up for a sprint at the intra-squad meet.

"The 300 was just something I could do and be competitive, and I just went out there and ran and tried to win," Herron said. "I guess what the team could take out of [the dive] is to go out and compete in whatever you do; step up and be the best person you can be."

Herron didn't win the race, but his last-second burst across the finish line has become the legend around the Iowa team. Moments like the dive made Herron's teammates vote him the squad's most inspirational athlete in both years he spent as a Hawkeye; he jumped for Texas-San Antonio as a freshman and sophomore.

"Jeff's a hard worker; especially living together, we have a really good environment of competition," said Troy Doris, Herron's friend, roommate, and fellow jumper. "We carry that to practice and into everything we do … He's a good training partner to have around. I couldn't ask for anyone else."

Herron has been developing an attitude of constant improvement since he was a high-school sophomore in Texas and first realized he had talent as a high jumper. Herron posted a 6-8 jump as a senior, and that's when things became serious for the Fort Bend Austin alumnus.

"It was such a good height that I started looking at marks nationally and in the state. I realized that if I put together a few more jumps and got a little bit better, I could potentially win the state meet," Herron said. "Once I got ahold of that idea I really tried to focus on track and become a student of the game."

Herron took second at the state meet that year, and has brought the same studious attitude with him to Iowa.

"The mentality I've acquired is, 'Why not me?' " he said. "… I think, 'Why can't I go to nationals; why can't I be a national champion? If the other guys can do it, why not me?' "

Herron is hoping to do just that as his indoor season draws to a close. He qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships last year, but didn't score points for the Hawkeyes. He hopes to qualify for what would be his first and only indoor NCAA meet early next month.

"I work hard; I know what I'm trying to get to," he said. "I'm not the top tier of the team. There are a lot of guys that are doing a lot better than me, and I'm just trying to put myself up there and get where they're at."

Herron built momentum last weekend with his performance at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Lincoln, Neb. His fourth-place finish was a highlight on an otherwise difficult day for his teammates.

Herron still has the time and talent to carve the title of NCAA all-American into his legacy, but the one he's already established in the minds of his teammates and coaches has served him well so far.

"He's a hard worker, has a great attitude, and he's going to be a hard guy to replace," Wieczorek said. "Not only for performances in the field, but what he brings to our teams in terms of his personality and his attitude — which is terrific."


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