Discouragement and injuries nearly led Iowa harrier Chaney to quit


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In his first cross-country meet of his junior year, Sam Chaney delivered.

He placed eighth for the Hawkeyes in the Bradley Open on Sept. 7, while smashing his personal 8,000-kilometer record. This was almost unthinkable a year ago, when he was ready to give up running.

“What a difference a year makes,” head coach Larry Wieczorek told his team at the end of his team’s Sept. 11 practice.

“This time last year, Sam Chaney was ready to throw in the towel with running. Look at him now.”

By talking about Chaney’s past struggles, Wieczorek wanted to show the team how well the harrier was doing now compared with a year ago. He noted that perspective was important for the other harriers.

“[Chaney] is a good example of someone who has persevered,” he said. “I think it will serve a positive purpose to give someone else that who might be struggling.”

He has had a hard time coping with numerous stress fractures during high school and college. Those injuries left the Columbus Junction native discouraged during his sophomore campaign.

“I was sick of the same old stuff popping up,” Chaney said. “I just didn’t feel like I was performing to my standard. It frustrated me a lot.”

High expectations and lack of patience were his problems, he said. Running is all about patience, and he said that anyone would afree that he’s not the most patient person in the world.

“I thought since I was a state champ in high school that success would translate instantly,” he said.

Senior Nick Holmes was initially one of the reasons Chaney came to Iowa. Holmes also was the reason he decided to stay.

Like Chaney, Holmes has had a rough career dealing with numerous injuries. The elder Holmes knew that if Chaney quit, he would regret it in the future.

“Running is something he invested his whole life into, and quitting is taking the easy way out,” Holmes said. “He could go and be the top at a junior college, but that’s not the way to go — I knew he wouldn’t be happy.”

After talking with Holmes, Chaney sat down with Wieczorek, and at that point, Chaney said, he learned “to grow up.”

“Wiz knows what he’s doing,” Chaney said. “He’s been coaching here so many years for a reason.”

For Wieczorek, he said its part of the job to encourage his runners to hang in there and to stick with it when things start to get challenging.

“He has faith in me,” Chaney said. “That means the world when you have a coach that believes in you.”

In the past year, Chaney has experienced a lot of growth both physically and mentally. For the first time, he isn’t being interrupted in his training because of injuries, and now, he’s begun to enjoy running again — something that he hasn’t felt since the eighth grade.

Wieczorek has noticed the differences between Chaney from 2011 to 2012. The runner is more relaxed mentally and better connected with his mind, body, and fighting spirit, the 26-year head coach said.

“He steps on the cross-country course expecting to do well,” he said. “It’s not about being the Big Ten champion but being the best Sam Chaney.”

Holmes also agrees Chaney has had a great transformation both as an athlete and a person. He has grown more mature, has the drive to do better, and is a better communicator.

“He knows that everyone in his life is there to build him up,” Holmes said. “He’s made great strides.”

Chaney said he’s still working on his patience and how to handle difficult situations. Though he’s has come a long way from last year, his struggles as an athlete aren’t over.

“The most important thing is, it’s where you wind up, not where you begin,” Wieczorek said.

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