Rankings mean nothing to Iowa tracksters

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa's track and field program will travel to SEC country this weekend to compete in the Battle on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, La. The program will also send some of its athletes to Palo Alto, Calif., to compete in the Stanford Invitational.

A strong performance at last week's Arkansas Invitational produced four first-place finishes and several individual personal bests spread between the men's and women's teams.

Iowa's hard work has paid off in more ways than one, though.

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association releases weekly rankings of individual events during the outdoor track and field season. The organization bases the rankings on the most up-to-date personal records of each college athlete in the nation.

Those individual rankings help dictate the overall team rankings based on a point system. Higher-ranked athletes earn more points towards the total team score. The coaches' organization ranks each team based on its total of individual points.

Iowa's men's program earned a No. 20 overall ranking in the NCAA Division-I National Week One Rankings because of its 12 ranked athletes, two of whom are ranked in two different events.

Justin Austin is one. The junior is ranked 21st in the 100 meters and fourth in the 200 meters. These rankings didn't come as a surprise to head track and field coach Larry Wieczorek — even though Austin sat out for most of the indoor season with an injury and struggled when he was healthy.

"Justin certainly has had some great ups — being Athlete of the Year, Big Ten champion, all that good stuff last year," the head coach said. "Now, he's experienced some of the downs. I think [he's] persevering and realizing that, if you stick with it and persevere, you'll come out on the other side."

Austin said the rankings don't mean anything unless he goes out and puts in the work to back them up. The high rankings only show he has more to prove, he said.

"You take it with a grain of salt," the junior said. "Don't totally forget about it, but put it in the back of your mind and come out in the outdoor season ready to get it."

The men's tracksters weren't the only athletes in Iowa City to shine in the rankings. The women's side of the program also delivered by claiming six individual rankings in the Week One lists.

Betsy Flood and Brooke Eilers claimed two spots in the women's 5,000 meters at 18th and 37th, respectively. Ashley Liverpool also cracked the rankings in the women's 400 meters at 48th, and McKenzie Melander was 47th in the women's 1,500 meters.

Iowa's top discus thrower, Majesty Tutson, also claimed a spot in the rankings by snagging the 27th position — she placed second in the event at last season's Big Ten championships.

The coaches of the women's squad have continually told their athletes to be successful in all areas of the sport and to continue to get better every day. The athletes should never settle for being content, they said.

"I need to know my athletes are doing everything they can to be successful," assistant coach Scott Cappos said. "I assume they're doing everything right — on and off the field — in order to be the best they can be."

But Cappos did say that it shows if an athlete is content with her or his current position. And he doesn't stand for it.

"There's times for getting on an athlete, and when I do that, it's more on a one-on-one basis," he said. "I don't think anybody goes into the circle and tries to throw poorly … If they're not doing the right things, we try to get it clarified."

DI reporter Tork Mason contributed to this article.

Follow DI women's track and field reporter Cody Goodwin on Twitter.

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