XC legacy Nathan Ferree still developing as runner


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Cross-country runner and freshman Nathan Ferree grew up loving his parents’ alma mater, the University of Iowa. Thomas and Carol Ferree both ran track and cross-country for Iowa in the late-1970s.

Ultimately, the younger Ferree’s Hawkeye spirit, along with his desire to challenge himself as a Division-I athlete, led him to the UI.

Nathan Ferree, who is redshirting this year, said running wasn’t always the focus for him.

At first, he tried soccer, baseball, and a little bit of tennis. After discovering he was really bad at all of those sports, he shifted his focus to cross-country.

“I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I should try running,’ and I did,” he said. “I’ve been in love with it ever since.”
Ferree can’t explain why exactly that he loves to run. He just does.

“It’s just one of those things you love doing, it’s part of what you do,” he said. “You make a choice, and you love it, and I love it.”

Growing up with parents of running backgrounds, it was only natural that Nathan Ferree picked up the sport, Thomas Ferree said.

“You tend to migrate to what you are successful at and to what you enjoy,” he said.

It was never a question whether Nathan would go to Iowa. Both Thomas and Carol Ferree continued to be avid Hawkeye fans after college, and they brought both Nathan and his sister, Sarah, to almost every home football game.

“We had them learning the ‘Iowa Fight Song’ before they got out of their crib,” Thomas Ferree said.

However, the parents made it clear to their children that they could go to any school they wanted. For Sarah Ferree, the medical school attracted her to Iowa City. For Nathan, it was that head cross-country coach Larry Wieczorek was willing to take a chance.

Out of high school, it’s not set in stone what kind of athlete someone is going to be, Wieczorek said. Instead, he likes to see athletes who don’t have the top credentials improve to the Big Ten level.

“I have seen many athletes develop; it’s a hard level to be a Big Ten athlete,” Wieczorek said. “But do you have a minimal talent, do you have a burning desire to succeed, does Nate Ferree have that ability?”

Wieczorek said that a developmental athlete, such as Nathan, is the type the Hawkeyes see good things in, although the development may take time.

Thomas and Carol Ferree are excited about the opportunity that Wieczorek gave their son. The father also noted that it is a great opportunity for Nathan Ferree to see what he can do.

“From my perspective, it’s one of those opportunities in life to see what you can do,” he said. “To see can you compete, get good grades, be a good teammate, and add value to the university.”

So far, Nathan Ferree has performed beyond the expectations of not only the head coach but his teammates as well.

“I was honestly a little worried how was I going to talk to his parents if he can’t handle this,” Wieczorek said.

Senior Nick Holmes made a point of telling Wieczorek how impressed he was with Nate’s performances during practices. He simply pours his heart into it, the 26-year head coach said.

“I think with Nate Ferree, the jury is still out with what he can do,” Wieczorek said. “But he has impressed his teammates with his guts.”

Even redshirts are expected to contribute in some way to the cross-country team, whether it’s by being a good student and having a great work ethic and a great attitude.

“Find a way to be an asset, not a liability,” Wieczorek said. “He has shown to be an asset already.”

With having the experience being a student-athlete, Thomas Ferree said the best thing he can share with his son is advice and comfort.

“The support we can give him is, ‘Hey, we’ve been there, we know what it takes,’ ” he said. “We can provide advice and counsel along the way. It’s not easy, [and] I think every athlete will tell you it’s not easy.”

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