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Iowa men's cross-country runners overcome rivalry

BY JALYN SOUCHEK | OCTOBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Freshmen Anthony Gregorio and Taylor Soltys have already proven their worth in their first season with the Hawkeyes. And on top of that, the two have grown an unexpected bond.

The two come from two of the top cross-country programs in the nation. Gregorio and Soltys were also heated high-school rivals: The former is from Palatine, Ill., and the latter from Naperville, Ill.

The meets between the Gregorio’s Platatine High School and Soltys’ Neuqua Valley High School were intense. Soltys said the rivalry was always a big deal for both teams.

Prior to their first college season, the pair thought that they wouldn’t like each other. According to Gregorio, they were taught to dislike each other in high school because of the in-state rivalry.

Soltys was the first to commit to Iowa, and head coach Larry Wiezcorek encouraged him to talk to Gregorio and persuade him to also commit.

The recruit wanted no part in it.

“I was like, ‘I don’t want him to be here, I don’t like the Palatine guys,’” he said. “It was definitely a hard situation. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to put up with him.”

At that time it was unthinkable that in a couple months, the two would be not only be roommates, but close friends. Coming from similar programs is the main reason the two came together.

“We both have a very serious passion of winning, share the same drive of being the best in both of our high schools,” Soltys said. “Even though they we were rivals, we both had similar cultures.”

Now, the duo has a way of being able to motivate each other both in practice and meets.

“We both have competiveness about it, and we both want to beat each other,” Gregorio said. “But we want to work as teammates. We push each other to get just as good as the other one.”

Wieczorek looks at the pair of being capable to achieve great success in the future — as long as they can manage a “cooperative competitiveness,” and push each other to improve.

“They bring a great love for the sport and passion,” he said. “They’re having fun even though I’m out there kicking their butt every day.”

On Sept. 29, when they competed at the Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, they kept pace with each other the entire way and placed with just a second different.

“To come in as a freshmen and to come in at the fourth- and fifth-man spots, that kind of demonstrates how close they are and the contribution to the team,” Wieczorek said. “As freshmen, this is a good sign.”

On and off the course, most of their time is spent with each other. Both are biomedical engineer majors and have many of the same classes. Gregorio said the pair depends on each other to stay on top of schoolwork and look out for each other on campus.

The freshmen have become training partners and do most runs together in practice, but the rivalry hasn’t been forgotten. And probably never will be.

“We have a deeper bond than a normal friendship, we’re always around each other. It’s a strong bond when you’re striving for the same goal,” Soltys said.  “There’s still an old since of rivalry … I don’t want to lose to Anthony, and I know he certainly doesn’t want to lose to me.”


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