Hawkeye men's cross-country coach uses first meet as 'fact finding mission'


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The men’s cross-country team will travel today to Macomb, Ill., for its first competition of the 2012 season: the Western Illinois Early Bird Open. The Hawkeyes will compete against seven other schools, including Western Illinois, Augustana College, and Illinois Central.

First performances are essential for any coach to see where the team is. In addition, it sets the tone for the remainder of the season. To gauge where the team is, 12 runners are being split into two equally talented teams for the first couple of meets.

This gives the coaches opportunities to see how well the players compete and who will make the varsity squad for Big Ten competition.

Head coach Larry Wiezcorek, in his 26th season, said he’s still uncertain at which level the runners, and he calls the first two meets “fact-finding missions.”

Though the members haven’t spent a long time with each other, Wiezcorek noted that he has high expectations for the guys based on what he has seen during their few practices this summer.

There are a large number of newcomers on the team — including three freshmen who will make their débuts today: Matt Butler, Anthony Gregorio, and Taylor Soltys. The head coach said it’s important to integrate new runners early to instill good habits such as sideline discipline, how they come out to the field, traveling to meets, warming up as a team, as well as running as a team.

“I think we want to establish competitors [who] go out and compete to the best of their ability, finish strong, and use the whole race,” Wiezcorek said.

Before the first meet of his college career, Butler seems confident in his ability to perform for the Hawkeyes. He said beating first-meet nerves is something that comes natural to him.

“You just want to come out knowing you control everything that happens,” the Bettendorf native said. “Believe in your fitness and bust through the barrier you set up in your mind.”

Freshman Caleb Wilfong will make the trip but will not compete until next weekend. he has confidence that his teammates will perform well and will bring home a W.

He also said that it’s important he’s able to cheer on his fellow freshmen. The rookies have bonded well, and Wilfong thinks it is also necessary to be there for his fellow classmen’s first college race.

Last year, the Hawkeyes were unable to compete at the Early Bird Open because the meet was canceled due to temperatures reaching more than 100 degrees. Today, the Hawkeyes are looking at slightly better temperatures in the lower 90s.

Wiezcorek said the heat will still be a problem but that the men will be prepared since they have been running in heat all summer. According to Wiz, heat “really adds to a challenge.”

“In an endurance sport, heat really is an enemy to an athlete,” he said.

Though the meet doesn’t entail many big-name schools, it doesn’t mean it will lack any competition. The runners have to be prepared for competition regardless of whom they go up against, Wiezcorek said.

“I think it’s important to put your best self out there, even though they’re not competing, say, versus Minnesota or LSU,” he said.

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