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Questions surround Hawkeye harrier Thode's departure

BY JALYN SOUCHEK | AUGUST 28, 2012 6:30 AM

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Jeff Thode’s senior season could have included a second All-American honor and a fifth school record.

But instead of preparing for his senior season, Thode is selling cars in Illinois.

Tha Thode left Iowa is not disputed. The question is why.

The Schaumberg, Ill., native said numerous arguments over grades with head coach Larry Wiezcorek led to his departure — which the coach disagrees with.

“Coach and I didn’t see eye to eye,” Thode told The Daily Iowan. “He didn’t see the messages I was giving him in one-on-one talks … Leaving just made things better instead of continuing to keep arguing back and forth”

Wiezcorek didn’t feel the runner was receiving enough help in classes, Thode said, however noting he worked with numerous tutors without any results. He said he believes he already reached his academic potential.

But Wiezcorek’s view is slightly different. He said Thode left Iowa simply to enter the working world, returning to Illinois and his dad’s construction company. He “had other choices,” Wiezcorek said.

“He was an adult,” Wiezcorek said. “He made a choice. He was doing well in school and cross-country.”

Wiezcorek said he never tried to argue with Thode. Instead, he encouraged him. Wiezcorek said he felt it was important for Thode to receive his degree.

During his time at Iowa, Thode was a two-time qualifier for the NCAA cross-country championship, three-time All-Region honoree, and an All-American. Thode was able to clinch his NCAA qualification by placing eighth at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

In 2011, he became the first runner in school history to a run a sub-four-minute mile with a 3:58.72 time at the Last Chance Qualifier. Thode held the school records in the mile, the 3,000-meters, 3,200-meter relay, and the Cretzmeyer facility record in the 1,500-meter.

“[Thode’s departure] was obviously a great loss,” Wiezcorek said. “I was … disappointed when he made that decision.”

Still, Wiezcorek looks back on Thode’s time at Iowa fondly. He called the period a “wonderful time for cross-country” and called Thode a “great player,” “a great contribution,” and “a great Hawkeye.”

Though he was flattered by his former coach’s remarks, Thode said leaving was better for him and the team.

“With me and [Wiezcorek] arguing, it brought down the energy for not just the team but the whole entire track and field team as well,” he said.

Roughly two months after Thode’s departure, Wiezcorek named fifth-year senior Nick Holmes this season’s captain.

Holmes said the situation was confusing and felt Thode had difficulties “staying with running mentally.”

“I think he’s just worried about the next chapter in his life,” Holmes said. “I wish, for his own benefit, that he would have stayed for his last year and for school. I think I was more upset about that.”

And even Thode will admit his regrets. Now working as a car dealer at Bill Azteck Chevrolet in Schaumberg, Thode said he’s “50-50” on his decision.

“I wish I could have been [at Iowa] for one more year. It would have been nice to make the last year work,” he said. “It was a shame. We both have to deal with it and get past it.”


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