One Hawkeye reaches finals on day one of Track NCAAs

BY IAN MARTIN | JUNE 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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DES MOINES — Iowa's Erik Sowinski paced the field in the third and final heat of the 800 meters at the NCAA outdoor meet, becoming the only Hawkeye on day one to reach her or his respective final.

But the senior still needed a comeback finish to secure a spot in Friday's finals.

Sowinski lead the majority of lap one, but was overtaken on the second and final lap by most of the other racers. Coming into the final 150 meters, the senior wove from the middle of a muddled pack to the front of the field.

He pumped his fist as he crossed the finish line with a first-place time of 1:46.09, knowing he'd earned a spot — as the No. 1 seed — in the finals. The time also broke a school record, which Sowinski had held.

The relieved runner said the late burst came from a desire to run one more race as a Hawkeye.

"It's been a hell of a four years," the senior said. "And I just didn't want that to be my last race for the Black and Gold."

The qualification into the final eight also secures All-American status for the third-straight year — earning the accolade in the 4x100 relay in 2010 and the 800 meters in 2011. He's the first male Hawkeye with three-consecutive All-American honors since Bashir Yamini from 1996-99.

The two other Iowa runners were short of their respective finals on Wednesday, but both had at least one solace.

The only female Hawkeye running Wednesday, Ashley Liverpool, failed to qualify for Friday night's 400-meter final. She did earn second-team All-American honors, though, with a 13th place overall finish. The sophomore's 52.81-second race was the fifth-fastest time in school history, even though it fell short of Liverpool's personal record of 52.47.

An exasperated Liverpool wasn't satisfied with her race — she finished fifth in her heat — but as the only underclass Hawkeye athlete at this year's NCAA final venue, she was able to keep some perspective.

"It was my second-best time ever, so I'm not completely upset," she said. "But I'm pretty upset. I said I wanted to do better."

The sophomore said her goal — aside from making the finals — was to break her personal record, which she set at this year's Big Ten meet en route to a conference silver medal.

The Cincinnati native earned her second career All-American accolade; she had an honorable mention All-American turn with the 4x400 relay team at last year's NCAA outdoor meet.

Iowa junior Ethan Holmes failed to qualify for Friday's 400-meter hurdle finals, and he also wasn't happy despite having another chance to qualify for a medal race today in the 110-meter hurdle race. He was the only Hawkeye to qualify for more than one event at the NCAAs.

The junior had the slowest qualifying time but finished 18th out of 24 on Thursday with a 51.68 second clip. The place was two spots short of earning second-team All-American honors.

Holmes was disappointed with a step back after last year's 14th-place finish.

"It didn't happen the way I wanted it to," he said. "I've been having good practices; I just can't put it together in a meet."

The only positive that the junior took from Wednesday's failed qualification was some free motivation for today's race.

"It's a lot more motivation to go out there and run well," said Holmes, who finished 22nd nationally in the 110-meter hurdles last year. "I always feel that if I don't do well in one, I have to do well in the next one."

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