Four Iowa tracksters end careers at NCAA's

BY TOM CLOS | JUNE 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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One word describes the paths that seniors Matt Banse, Troy Doris, McKenzie Melander, and Erik Sowinski all took to the 2012 NCAA meet: diverse.

Hammer-thower Banse came to Iowa a four-time state champion, breaking numerous records at Starmont High School in Strawberry Point, Iowa. His college career, however, was mired in disappointing finishes, ending abruptly at the NCAA regionals in each of the last three seasons.

Because of this, he said, his 20th-place showing was special.

"It's gratification, knowing that all of that hard work you do really pays off," Banse said. "I made it to nationals. It's a good feeling."

Banse's Hawkeye career was filled with ups and downs, but he nevertheless was sad knowing his Hawkeye journey had come to a close.

"I'll miss my team; we're like a family," Banse said. "I'll be around, but it's going to be different."

Like Banse, Melander had come up short at NCAA regionals until this season, when she finally broke through as one of the top 5,000-meter runners in the country. The Apple Valley, Minn., native's 14th-place finish was well worth the wait.

"I started out freshman year hoping that I would be here," she said. "To make it in my last meet was just a great way to end the season and my career."

Melander was quick to note that it was the "people" at Iowa whom she was going to miss the most from her tenure in Iowa City.

"Everyone on the team is similar," she said. "We always get along really well, and I'm going to miss hanging out with my friends every day."

Doris didn't start his triple-jump career as a Hawkeye. He came to Iowa as a junior-year transfer who had won two National Junior College Athletics Association individual titles while at the College of DuPage. He took fifth in 2011 and arrived in Des Moines as the favorite to claim a national championship for the Hawkeyes.

But the weekend ended in disappointment as he placed fifth — again.

"It's frustrating," Doris said. "I had good practices leading up, and sometimes things just aren't going right. I really don't know what it is."

Doris' name is all over the Hawkeye record books, but the upperclassman still felt discouraged by the void his career will end with.

"It feels good to leave my legacy and leave my name in places," he said. "I just wish it was in the right places like 'first place at nationals.' "

Sowinski — now a three-time All-American — almost didn't make it to Iowa City out of high school until the Hawkeyes recruited him in his final year. The Wisconsinite took second in the 800 meters in Des Moines, his silver medal representing Iowa's top performance at the meet.

"I didn't even know if I was going to run D-1 track when I was a senior in high school," he said. "To come here and take second, it's been a dream come true."

Reminiscing about his now complete career, he summed up the sentiments of all four departing seniors.

"At Iowa, I've grown a lot as an athlete and as a person," Sowinski said. "It's a great place."

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