Iowa hurdler hits the ground running in return from injury

BY TORK MASON | APRIL 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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A torn hamstring was just another disappointing — and possibly season-ending — injury for Iowa hurdler Jordan Mullen.

The Atlantic, Iowa, native suffered the injury on Jan. 21 at the Adidas Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., and he was forced out of action for the third time in as many seasons. He tore his left quadriceps as a freshman and his right quadriceps last season.

But the junior hasn't seemed to miss a beat.

He made his return at the Botts Invitational on April 14 and took first place in the 110-meter high hurdles with a time of 13.88 seconds. He followed that up with another tape-breaking effort at the Musco Twilight Meet this past weekend, winning the 110-highs in 13.90 seconds.

Still, there was a period when Mullen and the coaching staff was unsure if he'd be able to compete this season.

"We wasted four weeks because we couldn't get different doctors' opinions," Mullen said. "We thought it was just a nervous [system] problem. Sitting in [the training room] for four weeks, not going anywhere — not going back, not going forward — I was about to throw in the towel."

But Mullen finally discovered the problem after getting examined by another doctor, and head trainer Terry Noonan was able to change Mullen's rehab.

Medicine is an inexact science," head coach Larry Wieczorek said. "Sometimes, it's difficult to diagnose and find just what exactly is causing the ailment, and fortunately, they did."

Junior Ethan Holmes praised Mullen's ability to keep pushing through his rehab to make it back on the track and noted that the ability is critical for a successful recovery.

"When you're going through an injury like that, it's really easy to get down on yourself and be down in the dumps," Holmes said. "I think he handled it pretty well. He stayed pretty positive with it. If you're not in it mentally, you're beat right there."

Mullen said he felt like he could have come back at the Battle on the Bayou on April 7, but he was held out as a precaution. He said he thought that was the right decision, but Holmes offered a different opinion on Mullen's mindset.

"Week after week, he's asking, 'Can I run this week?' " Holmes said. "The coaches had to hold him back a little bit, but it's a good they held him back, because he came out at the right time."

Wieczorek said it's difficult to tell an athlete he has to wait another week to compete again. He said the temptation is always there for a coach to use an athlete at the earliest possible opportunity, but he's never regretted waiting to bring an athlete back into the fold.

"Sometimes, wisdom is the better part of valor," he said. "You want to go, but sometimes you know it's better to wait for another day."

Holmes said the instant impact Mullen has had is not surprising. Talent and work ethic have never been the issue for his teammate, he said.

Mullen wants to see what he can do with a full outdoor season, for once.

"It's more exciting, because I've never gotten to run a full outdoor season," he said. "So we don't know what my potential is — is it limitless?"

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