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Commentary: Iowa's Holmes embodies 'family' mentality

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 16, 2012 6:30 AM

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Nick Holmes was nothing short of determined.

The junior was running around sixth place for most of the men's 1,500-meter race at the Botts Invitational this past weekend. He trailed a small pack of runners from Illinois, DePaul, and Loyola.

And he looked rather content with his position, which would've only tallied three team points for the Hawkeyes. Hindsight shows that it wouldn't have made a difference either way — the Iowa men's track team claimed first place at the meet by more than 70 points.

But something happened down the final stretch of the four-lap race. Holmes caught up to the pack of runners in front of him. He broke out from the group and surged forward during the final 150 meters.

I stopped typing and watched as he flew by the pack. He began gaining on Blake Irwin of Missouri with around 60 meters to go. He came close, finishing just 0.81 seconds behind the Tiger. Holmes finished third.

I caught up with him after the race, sitting in the crowd at the Walton Stadium, and asked him about his sudden kick at the end of the race.

"I wanted to score as many team points as possible," Holmes said. "Just trying to make a big impact."

That's the difference between the indoor tracksters and the team that competed in Columbia on April 14. The outdoor Hawkeyes think more in terms of the team than they do of themselves.

They struggled with that issue during the indoor season — they were a team, yes, but the individuality showed more than the unity they needed. They didn't rally around each other. The team bond that was showcased on April 14 wasn't nearly as strong as it needed to be in the past.

But the unity and "family" mentality witnessed over the weekend wasn't just seen on the track. Holmes showcased how much his team meant to him by sprinting all-out to snag third place and earn 6 points instead of 3, but he wasn't the only one.

Hannah Simonson showed it when she stood up and walked toward the railing that separated the field and the stands. Why? Because she wanted to scream and cheer for whichever Hawkeye was running as they came down the final distance.

Josh Larney showed it by walking along the field inside the track, rooting for the jumpers and long-distance runners. Ethan Holmes did the same as he warmed up for his only race of the day.

Even the throwers — whose events had them stranded in the northwest corner of the stadium all day — showed their love for the runners and sprinters by screaming from the fence in between their throws.

They may be subtle or they might be seen by all, but these are the signs that Iowa's track team is closer than before.

What sprung this sudden unity remains to be seen. It could've been the poor performances at the Big Ten indoor track and field championships. It could've been a sudden epiphany during practice. It could've been a heart-to-heart at dinner one night.

It doesn't really matter, so long as the tracksters keep competing the way they do. The closer they get, the happier they are, which turns into great performances.

Head coach Larry Wieczorek was very happy with Nick Holmes' efforts — and was just as surprised as I was.

"That was a real positive for him, not to throw in the towel when he was back and to finish strong," he said.

And if you ask Nick Holmes, he'll never throw in the towel for his team. Not now, and not ever.

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


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