Long periods of rest are welcome, not feared at NCAAs

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

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DES MOINES — Sometimes the wait is the worst part for an athlete. Whether pregame or in-game, prolonged periods of rest in sport are considered to rust athletes, or even worse, psyche them out.

Perhaps a sweep leads to too long a break before the next playoff series, interrupting team chemistry. Then there's a pitcher sitting in the dugout during a long offensive inning or a sharpshooter on the basketball bench for the third quarter who can't hit the rim in the fourth.

But in the fatiguing track and field life, a wait is almost always welcome.

Three of the eight Hawkeyes at the NCAA meet won't compete until Friday or Saturday. This means hammer thrower Matt Banse, triple jumper Troy Doris, and distance runner McKenzie Melander all have two or three days of just watching before they get their turns.

The rest is welcome for the physical recovery, not feared as an anxious wait between races.

Melander has the longest time before a race or event of any Hawkeye at this year's NCAAs. The senior will compete in her first-ever NCAA final, but she won't be on the track for her 5,000-meter race until 12:19 p.m. Saturday.

It doesn't disturb Melander, though, because she's used to a long wait before her considerably long race.

"It was the same in Austin for [the NCAA West Regional]," said Melander, who implied it's relaxing, not nerve-racking, to have a late race. "And I don't have to show up [to Des Moines] until Friday."

Even if a long break is out of a runner's usual routine, it seems to be celebrated.

Senior Erik Sowinski usually runs numerous events for the Hawkeyes. However, since he qualified individually for the NCAA finals in the 800 meters while his 1,600-meter relay team stayed at home, he has an unusual gap day to recover after an exasperating first-place finish in Wednesday's 800-meter semi-finals.

"I haven't had a day of rest between [races] this year, so I'll recover pretty well," he said.

Junior Ethan Holmes is the only Hawkeye at the NCAAs who doesn't have the luxury of any days off. After an 18th-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles on Wednesday, he has to run in the 110-meter hurdle race today. Holmes was the only Hawkeye to earn a nationals berth in more than one event.

If anyone does need a rest, it's Holmes. He pulled a hamstring and had a lingering back injury throughout the winter. The junior's injuries are medically healed, but their influence on his on-track groove is persisting. Holmes insists that his injuries are not an excuse but did say it was tough to not have days off for a different reason: Because his competition could focus on singular races.

Holmes seems to disregard days off, though, especially because he's not graduating. Instead of saving all his energy for one, final sprint, Holmes doesn't even want time away from the track — regardless of the outcome of Thursday's semifinal race.

"I don't plan on taking a single day off," he said. "In fact, when I get back to Iowa City, I'm starting my summer training on Monday or Tuesday."

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