The future is now for Iowa men's track and field

BY TORK MASON | APRIL 17, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa men's track and field team came into the season with a host of returning athletes who were instrumental to the Hawkeyes' Big Ten outdoor championship last year.

And the team has received a helping hand from the younger generation this season.

A handful of freshmen have stepped up to immediately benefit the Hawkeyes. That's something senior cocaptain Erik Sowinski said isn't always typical, and the class could give the team an edge at the Big Ten championships.

"It's a little bit [unusual]," he said. "I mean, you've got Brennan Davey, who put up a big mark in the 400 [meters] and having Gabe [Hull] in the discus — those are two big guys who could potentially score at the Big Tens. Then you throw Kaleb [VanCleave] in there, he can score in the 200 and the 400. I don't think you have a lot of teams in the Big Ten with three freshmen who could all score."

Davey also runs on the 4x400 relay team, which holds the Big Ten's best time on the season at 3:06.49. Hull took first place in the discus at the Battle on the Bayou in Baton Rouge, La., on April 7. VanCleave holds the 12th-fastest 400 time in the conference at 47.87 seconds.

Junior hurdler Ethan Holmes said the newcomers' success hasn't surprised him, but he's used to seeing fast athletes hail from his home state.

"These guys were all pretty good in high school, and a lot of them are Iowa kids, so it's really cool to see that," he said. "To see them come in and step up like they have — I knew it was going to happen, but most people wouldn't expect it. From the inside point of view, I knew what they were capable of."

Davey and VanCleave are both native Iowans, and Holmes — from Clinton — said Iowa high-school athletes may have an advantage when they move on to the Division-I level.

"Being from Iowa, track isn't the most important sport in your high-school career," Holmes said. "So you get these kids [who] run fast in high school in Iowa; once they get to the college level, you know they're going to step up and go to that next level and start running even faster."

Head coach Larry Wieczorek said Iowa natives tend to bring an extra degree of passion for Hawkeye track that can prove beneficial.

Senior co-captain Troy Doris said the upperclassmen are "more involved" with the younger athletes this year than they have in the past

"There's more inspiration, more guidance," the All-American said. "A lot of older people, their focus is on their senior season. But it would be kind of selfish of me if I just focused on my season, so I actually talk to a lot of the younger guys and try to help them out."

Wieczorek said the group has a good blend of instant-impact athletes and runners who may take longer to develop but can one day be a force in the conference. He said it's reassuring that, with a talented senior class set to graduate, there's a strong group in the pipeline.

Holmes said the future looks bright.

"With these guys, the sky's the limit for them," he said.

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