Hawkeye tracksters continue to look ahead

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa tracksters have one last chance to meet the requirements for the NCAA indoor meet.

The final opportunity to qualify for the national meet in Boise, Idaho, will be split into two last-chance meets this weekend. Thirteen members of the men's track team will compete in Ames on Saturday at the Iowa State Qualifier. Competition will begin at 10 a.m. at the Lied Recreation-Athletics Facility.

Three more members of the men's squad — Nick Holmes, Kevin Lewis, and Jeff Thode — are already in South Bend, Ind., for the Alex Wilson Indoor Track and Field Invitational. The trio will run at the Loftus Sports Center on Notre Dame's campus this afternoon to try to secure an automatic qualifying bid for next weekend's meet in Boise.

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said he's optimistic his athletes will take advantage of the weekend, even though they may not make up as talented a group as last year's Hawkeyes.

"We're not the same team this year; we're a little further out than we were," he said. "[But] I still think we're good enough that it's possible [to qualify for nationals]."

The last-chance meets are also prime opportunities for athletes who have been injured. The 4x400 relay team of Erik Sowinski, Patrick Richards, Kaleb Van Cleave, and Keaton Rickles will feature one such athlete when it takes the track in Ames.

Richards will run the lead leg of the relay after struggling with injuries for majority of the season. He said he's ready to run — and run fast.

"I just need to get us the lead," he said. "I've been having a rough year. I had a hamstring issue and wasn't running too well, but I'm back, and I'm ready."

While the men run, jump, and throw this weekend, women's head coach Layne Anderson — whose team finished 10th at the indoor conference meet — said his athletes will take the time to recover and recuperate from the indoor season. The women's squad won't send athletes to either of the last-chance meets.

"We've opted not to pursue any last-chance opportunities," he said. "We feel like, for us, it's important to get people healthy, to get back to some good training, and for us to gain some physical, mental, and emotional confidence in ourselves."

Anderson said the time off will be good for his team as it begins training for the outdoor season. The team's potential, he said, is as high as it has ever been; this weekend will be the first step toward fulfilling that potential.

"This will be a good time to start training to become the team we envisioned we could be," he said. "The great news is that we have a significant amount of time to build momentum and produce some positive energy."

The Hawkeye women aren't the only ones that are done for the year. Justin Austin, a returning All-American in the 200 meters, has been dealing with a nagging hip-flexor injury that ended his indoor season.

"We're just going to hold him out and get him healthy and focused for outdoors," assistant coach Joey Woody said. "We need to focus on getting him healthier so he doesn't break down at big meets outdoors, like the Big Ten meet or nationals."

DI reporter Eldon Giannakouros contributed to this article.

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